It'd be easy for me to say something along the lines of "the Padres we all know and hate returned," or "the real slim (offensive) Padres stood back up." But I'm not going to say those things no matter how much you tell me they are literary gems - and I know you'd all tell me so. I will say that much like Superman when he comes in contact with red kryptonite, I lost my powers. It seemed that when I predicted sweeps, the Padres performed well. This was not the case with the Padres against the Braves. After a series-opening dominant performance by Eric Stults, the Padres just couldn't do much against the Braves starters. San Diego was outscored in the final three games of the series by a combined 18-1.
But that's in the past. We're Padres fans. We keep the faith. We look toward the future. And the future holds a match-up with the hated San Francisco Giants. I'm not sure if it was Mat Latos' hatred or the 2010 season or Barry Bonds, but it seems Padres fans hate the Giants more now than they ever have in the past. Me included. So let's get down to it.
Yonder Alonso, was one of the few bright spots in the Braves series. He was a combined 6 for 16. He drove in just one run, but he can't control who gets on base ahead of him. Carlos Quentin had a good series as well. He went 3 for 10 with a double. With the Padres coming back to San Diego, they can only hope some other players step up and perform.
San Diego is coming dangerously close to pulling to .500 at home. That's right, with all the talk of moving the fences, Petco National Park, etc, the Padres are just three games under .500 at home. A sweep of the Giants and they're right there.
Game One - 7:05 PM PT
Matt Cain vs. Ross Ohlendorf
Cain is a pretty good pitcher. Word is he threw a perfect game earlier this season. Beyond that, he's been the Giants best pitcher all year long. However, in his one start against the Padres this season, he went seven innings and gave up three runs. Three runs could be enough to win in Petco if Ohlendorf can toss a decent game. In seven of Cain's last 11 starts, he has given up three runs or less. The fact is, Cain has always been good. Last season was a flukey-good year, but he's been nearly equally good in each of his other seven Major league seasons. Last year, he had a ridiculously low HR/FB ratio of 3.7%. Speaking of home runs, Cain gives up more on the road than at home - not surprising considering he plays at AT&T Park, which is relatively pitcher-friendly. As he comes into Petco, he is probably not more likely to give up home runs than he would be at home. But I think Carlos Quentin is due.
Ohlendorf got lit up by Pittsburgh and his season ERA is not promising. He gave up seven runs (six earned) in three innings against the Pirates. He's struggled so much this season, I think we may have to revert to calling him by his actual first name. Nicknames or middle names as first names are for winners (this should be Buddy Black's clubhouse speech). Maybe I'm being too hard on Ross - or should I say CURTIS - but his 6.41 ERA, his 4.67 FIP, it's all bad. Ohlendorf has pitched two games against the Giants and of those, he started one of them. In a combined seven innings, he has given up ten hits and four runs. It's all bad for Curtis.
Game Two - 5:35 PM PT
Barry Zito vs. Eric Stults
Here's the game. This is the blow-out. Barry Zito can be as dominant as they come, but he can simply blow up too. It's a roll of the dice with Zito. He could step out there on the mound and roll - I don't even know what a good roll in craps is so my analogy is shot, so just make it up in your head craps players. Or he could give up eight runs. When Zito was pitching well this season, he managed to get his ERA down to 3.75 (7/22). However, it's since ballooned to 4.29. His career ERA sits at 3.93 (ERA+ of 109, which is surprisingly good considering the jokes I'm making at his expense). But in news designed to make you feel happy, Zito has a .308 winning percentage against the Padres and a 4.65 ERA. It seems the San Diego kid has trouble winning in his home town.
Eric Stults has been fantastic. Baseball is a crazy game, isn't it? Stults, a guy who has a career 4.33 ERA, who has bounced around between four Major League clubs in six years, who has thrown more than three times as many minor league innings than Major League innings, has a 2.49 ERA this season - 2.45 with San Diego. In his last 19 2/3 innings (a combination of starts and bullpen work), Stults has given up just 17 hits and only 3 runs. He's a career minor leaguer who is having a break-out season. He's like Dennis Quaid in The Rookie - only better! I know you're waiting for the splits, so let's get down to it. At Petco, Stults has a 2.45 career ERA in 18 1/3 innings. Against the Giants, he has a 4.32 ERA in 33 1/3 innings pitched. We can hope that evens out to somewhere in the Padres-beat-the-Giants range.
Game Three - 1:05 PM PT
Ryan Vogelsong vs. Clayton Richard
Vogelsong was the comeback story of the year last season. He pitched for the Giants briefly, then the Pirates up until the 2006 season. In no season with Pittsburgh (a total of five years) did he have an ERA under 4.43. And then, he was out of the Majors. He pitched in Japan in 2007, 2008, and 2009. He wasn't very good in that country either. He combined over three seasons in the Land of the Rising Sun for a 4.17 ERA. In 2010, Vogelsong was signed as a free agent by the Phillies, pitched in their minor league system, wasn't very good, and was released. The Angels then gave him a go - same result. Finally, in January of 2011, the Giants took him back. They had used him to acquire Jason Schmidt back when they sent him to Pittsburgh, but now they had him back. In 2011, Vogelsong climbed out of the depths of Triple-A and started 28 games for the Giants. He posted a 2.71 ERA. Fluke right? Well, so far this year, he's started 22 games for the Giants to the tune of a 2.72 ERA. Part of Vogelsong's success is coming from an unsustainably low BABIP. When hitters make contact with his pitches, they have a batting average of just .260 this year. They had an average of just .280 last year. League average is around .295. Vogelsong ranks sixth in the league in BABIP. But forget about everything I just told you, because Vogelsong has a 7.31 ERA in 28 1/3 innings against San Diego. Advantage: San Diego.
Richard is blossoming like a beautiful flower - or something like that. He's pitching better than any other point this season, possibly better than any other point in his Major League career, right now. He gave up five runs in his start against the Braves, but he was pitching a gem until the 7th. He had given up just two runs through six innings, then the Braves started hitting him. The scored one more run and got two runners on before he was pulled. Of course, Brad Boxberger came in and gave up a three-run homer, thus lifting Richard's run total to five in the game. No matter the ups and downs Richard experiences, he's always on the hill, always trying to keep the Pads in games. He's started 25 games this year, and he has never gone less than five innings. That's how you save a bullpen. That's how you keep your team in a game. Richard, unfortunately, has not fared well against the Giants. He has a career 434 ERA against them in 64 1/3 innings-pitched. He has also given up 17 runs against San Francisco in three starts this year. Let's hope for a change in fortunes.
I'm torn. Do I call for the sweep and hope that my powers of positivity have returned? Do I give you my true opinion based on numbers and facts? Why don't we compromise? I'll take logic and emotion, throw them together in a little hat, and mix them all up. What I'll get out is an optimistic prediction based on logic. After a 3-4 road trip, the Padres must be aching to get home, even if that home is the cavernous Petco Park. I like Eric Stults and the run he's been on. I also like Clayton Richard's success at Petco this year (3.05 ERA). That said, I think Curtis Ross Ohlendorf will get destroyed. So let's call it two out of three from the second-place Giants.
Keep The Faith!