After a series split with the Dodgers, The Padres are now back at .500, in fourth place, and 3 1/2 games back in the division. San Diego recently completed a sweep of the NL East's first place Braves, and tonight they'll begin a three-game set with another NL East team, the third place Phillies, who are 36-40 and 7 1/2 games back in their division.
Eric Stults will take the hill in the series opener. Though his 6-5 record this season isn't all that much to brag about Stults has been mostly fantastic this season. He's pitched at least six innings while allowing two runs or less in each of his last eight starts. His last time out, he pitched 6 1/3 solid frames, allowing two runs on seven hits, but a shaky bullpen and an off night for the Padres offense gave him a no-decision. One start prior, however, he pitched a two-hit complete game against the Diamondbacks for his sixth overall win of the season and his third straight victory at home.
As he takes the mound at Petco Park tonight, he'll look to keep that home win streak going and prevent the Friars from losing three consecutive games for the first time since June 2-4. This will be Stults' first career start against the Phillies, though he's faced them before in relief outings where he's given up a combined four earned runs in three total innings.
Stults' counterpart, Cliff Lee, hasn't faced San Diego since 2011. He is 1-2 with a 4.99 ERA in five career starts against the Padres. He has been one of the most reliable pitchers for Philadephia this year, going 9-2 with a 2.53 ERA and comes into tonight's contest having won seven straight decisions (six of which have come on the road). During his undefeated streak, which spans nine starts since May 1, he's pitched to the tune of a 1.97 ERA while collecting 64 strikeouts and issuing just 10 walks. He was especially sharp in his most recent outing, holding the Nationals to two runs, both on solo homers, while striking out nine batters in eight innings of work.
Lee has been solid on the road this season, but tonight he'll face a team who has been outstanding in their home park. Despite coming off two straight losses, the Padres have thrived at Petco Park this season, going 24-16 overall and 8-2 in their last ten at home. The Phillies have lost three of their last four on the road, but had won six straight away games prior to that. They've done well historically at Petco Park, winning 13 straight before the Padres bested them in their last two games here in 2012.
The Padres offense has struggled a little in recent games, and tonight's matchup against Lee will be a big test for them. Hopefully they can get back on track and get Stults a well-deserved win.