The Padres are back home after a disappointing road trip. They kick off their homestand tonight against the Mets in the first of a four-game series. Tyson Ross will make his third start at Petco Park, still seeking his first home win. The Padres lost each of his previous San Diego starts, though he pitched fairly well in both, allowing a combined five runs in 11 1/3 innings while striking out 17 batters. In four starts since returning to the Padres rotation, Ross has been brilliant, keeping batters to a .135 average and going 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA. The right-hander is fresh off a win in Cincinnati, where he kept the Reds to just one run on four hits in seven innings of work. Tonight will be his first career start against the Mets.
New York is also sending to the mound a pitcher who has never faced his opponent prior to tonight. Zack Wheeler will be making his first career start against the Padres as he hopes to take advantage of a Padres offense that has been struggling since losing some key players. San Diego has lost six of its last eight games thanks in huge part to a punchless offense that has hit just .130 during that stretch. The bullpen has also been struggling lately, combining for a 7.23 ERA over those eight games. With the loss of Everth Cabrera to suspension and Carlos Quentin to the disabled list, the Padres haven't quite been able to make due with their remaining offensive tools. One bright spot has been Jedd Gyorko, who has especially stepped it up in his last four games, batting 6-for-13 with three doubles and two home runs. However, he is just 3-for-33 in his last nine at Petco Park, so hopefully he can turn that around this homestand. Another recent offensive standout is Will Venable, who has been having a great month. He comes into tonight's matchup riding an 11-game hitting streak, batting .357 with three doubles, two triples, and three homers in August.
Wheeler will try to quiet the Padres' bats and help the Mets out of their own recent slump. New York is in danger of losing their fourth consecutive game for the first time since the beginning of June. But former prospect Wheeler has been a great addition to their rotation, pitching especially well away from New York. In six road starts, the righty is undefeated (4-0) with a 2.21 ERA and has held batters to a .206 average. In his most recent outing, he held the Diamondbacks scoreless at Chase Field for six innings before giving up a run on a solo shot. He pitched 6 2/3 innings total and issued no walks.
But the Mets are coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the NL-West-leading Dodgers. Last night they battled for 12 innings, but ended up on the losing side of a 5-4 decision. They'll be looking for another strong road performance from Wheeler to get them back in the win column.
Ross and Wheeler will take the mound at Petco Park beginning at 7:10 tonight.