05/16 Padres Preview: Game 40 vs. Nationals

J. Meric

SDSU phenom Stephen Strasburg returns to San Diego to try to end his winless streak as he takes on Edinson Volquez and the Padres.

Edinson Volquez has turned things around since his shaky start to the season. He began 2013 with three straight losses wherein his ERA skyrocketed to 11.68. But through his five starts since then, he's kept his ERA to a modest 2.59 while going 3-0 to bring him back to .500. His most recent start was a near-victory. He tossed six solid innings, allowing just two runs on three hits and four walks, and the Padres were leading when he exited the game. But the bullpen allowed the Rays to rally and take the lead, snatching away what would have been Volquez' fourth straight victory.

Volquez is 1-1 in three career starts against today's opponent. But his most recent, a no-decision and his only start against Washington in a Padres uniform, was his most successful. Last April he allowed just three hits and one walk through seven strong innings of work, keeping the Nationals off the board until the 7th when he gave up a single run before exiting the game. The Padres, also scoreless up to that point, eventually rallied and won the game, but the decision went to then-reliever Andrew Cashner. That was the Padres' sole win in their last six games against the Nats at Petco Park, so they'll be looking to improve on that tonight and in this series.

San Diego been on a tear recently, going 13-6 over their last 19 games while batting .286 with runners in scoring position and averaging 4.6 runs per game. That 19-game stretch includes sweeps of the Marlins, the NL-West-leading Giants, and the formidable 23-17 Orioles. Their only series loss in that span was against the Rays, who swept the three-game set in Florida, but the Padres kept all three games close. They will be excited to return home to Petco Park, where they have won 9 of their last 10 games in front of the home crowd

Tonight's crowd at Petco Park, however, might have some conflicting rooting interests. Hometown boy and former SDSU star pitcher Stephen Strasburg will make his return to San Diego to make his first career start at Petco Park. He has one start against the Padres under his belt, which took place at Nationals Park in May of 2012. He surrendered four runs on seven hits, only lasting four innings and taking the loss, but striking out five batters in the process. Though this will be his first outing at Petco Park as a major leaguer, Strasburg pitched here previously at the college level when SDSU took on UC Davis in April of 2009. He led the Aztecs to a 14-0 win while striking out six. Amazingly it was his first time in seven starts that he failed to reach double-digits in strikeouts, but he dominated nonetheless and was backed by some incredible run support from his SDSU teammates.

Unfortunately for Strasburg, he hasn't gotten the same kind of support from his Washington teammates, who have provided a meager 2.47 run support average, one of the lowest in the league, this season. They've only scored 13 runs during his current career-long 7-game winless streak, over which he's posted a 3.61 ERA while collecting 48 strikeouts through 42 1/3 innings. Strasburg now sits at 1-5 after his most recent start, which began as one of his best of the season but ended in disaster. He retired the first 11 batters he faced (six by strikeout) and kept the Cubs to one hit while throwing just 53 pitches through his first four innings. But after a 2-out error by Ryan Zimmerman, Strasburg unraveled and went on to give up four unearned runs while throwing 42 pitches in the 5th inning alone. A win in front of his hometown would likely be a highlight of his season, so he'll be looking to redeem himself in front of his family, friends, and fans in San Diego and hopes to get the offensive and defensive support from his team to back him up.



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