After dropping two of three in Philadelphia, the Padres continue their second-to-last road trip of the season with a series in Atlanta. The series opener against the Braves will pin veteran right-hander Ian Kennedy against rookie right-hander David Hale, who is making his major league debut.
Kennedy is making his eighth start in a Padres uniform, and so far things have gone pretty well for the right-hander. He has already matched his win total in his 21 starts as a Diamondback this season, going 3-1 with a 3.67 ERA while accumulating 41 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings of work for San Diego. He most recently threw five innings against the Rockies, allowing two runs (one earned) and collecting seven strikeouts. He was pulled after only 87 pitches, but Bud Black indicated that the move was more an opportunity to give some of the September callup pitchers a look than a reflection on Kennedy's performance. In five career starts versus the Braves, Kennedy is 2-0 with a 3.64 ERA, though he has yet to win at Turner Field. He's also had some recent struggles against them, posting a 5.79 ERA and issuing seven walks while pitching 9 1/3 total innings in his two previous meetings with them this season.
The Braves hope to take advantage of Kennedy's past struggles at Turner Field as they turn to Hale in the absence of Paul Maholm. Hale is a Georgia native and pitching prospect drafted out of Princeton in 2009. He was called up last week and gets the spot start tonight a sore elbow keeps Maholm sidelined. In 20 starts and 2 relief outings at Triple-A Gwinnett this season, Hale went 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA.
With Atlanta owning the best record in the league and an 11-game lead over the rest of the NL East, there isn't too much pressure on Hale. But with a magic number of six, the Braves could clinch the division title, a feat they haven't accomplished since 2005, as early as Sunday. The Padres, on the other hand, have been officially mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. But that hasn't stopped them from going on a late season surge. They are 6-3 in their last nine games and, as the past has indicated, San Diego has never been a team to just lay down when they have no postseason hopes to play for.
Follow along as the series in Atlanta gets underway at 4:30 this afternoon.