Let's be honest here. Watching the Padres take on the team with the best record in baseball was fun - even if San Diego did drop three of four. This is the team we all hoped for early on this season. They hit the ball (37 hits) in the Reds series, they got on base (18 walks), they hit home runs (five home runs), and they drove in runs (25 runs and 24 RBI). We know the pitching isn't there yet, but that's ok. It's been fun to watch.
Now, the Padres come home to take on the team from Queens, New York* (birth place of a little show called King of Queens). The Mets come into Petco with a 52-54 record. Two games under .500 means you're not quite out of contention in this brave new world in which we live. The additional Wild Card in the National League makes the Mets just 8.5 games back of a play-off spot. It's actually a pretty respectable position for the Mets who shaved their payroll from a little over $120 million to just over $93 million this year amidst the financial strain placed on the club by their white-collar friend Bernie Madoff.
*Please note: The Mets are actually located in Flushing, New York. Flushing is within the borough of Queens. That's a geography bomb I just dropped on you. OK, back to baseball.
R.A. Dickey vs. Clayton Richard
Dickey's magical knuckleball will invade San Diego. As part of its journey, rumor has it the ball will knuckle past the Tony Gwynn statue, narrowly avoiding Mr. Padre's outstretched bat. It will bound through the sky past the giant model of the U.S.S. Midway, threatening to destroy the plastic replica but wisely deciding against it. It will stop off at Rubios for a fish taco. Then finally the darting, seemingly out of control baseball, will land perfectly in former-Padre Rob Johnson's glove. But it will be called a ball to the joy go Padres fans world-wide.
Seriously though, Dickey is good. 2.83 ERA kind of good, people.
Richard does not throw a knuckleball. That's all you need to know, but I'll give you more. Richard has posted a 3.28 ERA in his career against the Mets. He's also posted a 2.96 ERA in 40 starts at Petco. I like those odds. However, this year has not been kind on the former league's loss leader (Erik Bedard of the Pirates now holds that honor). Despite his poor ERA of 4.14 (and even worse FIP - 4.50), though, Richard has actually gotten some of his velocity back. He peaked at 91.7 mph on his fastball in 2007. His low year (aside from his rookie year) was last season at 90.4 mph. So far this year, Richard is averaging 90.9 mph. His slider and his cut fastball have also shown marked improvements in velocity. Now if he could just stop giving up so many home runs.
Jeremy Hefner vs. Edinson Volquez
Hefner is another former-Padre. He was drafted by the Padres in the 5th round of the 2007 draft, spent five seasons in San Diego's farm system, was then placed on waivers after the 2011 season, and he finally became a Met. He made his Major League debut earlier this year and has posted a 5.52 ERA in 44 innings-pitched. Interestingly, Hefner was drafted twice by the Mets, but spurned them twice to return to school. Yet, New York is the team he still managed to make his Major League debut with.
Volquez continues to impress despite a hiccup in the first game of the Reds' series. His ERA jumped from 3.30 to 3.51 after that game, in which he gave up five runs, but Volquez has still been the Padres best and most consistent pitcher this year. He's already been worth one win above replacement for the Friars this year. For those keeping score at home, if Volquez was on a free agent contract where value is placed at about $5 million per win above replacement, he would be out performing his contract. Volquez is making $2.24 million in 2012.
Matt Harvey vs. Jason Marquis
The Padres wil get their first look at Matt Harvey on Sunday. Harvey made his Major League debut on July 26th against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He pitched 5 1/3 innings, gave up no runs, and struck out 11 batters. His second start was against the Giants. While it wasn't quite as dominant, he still earned the ever-coveted quality start stat. He pitched six innings, gave up three runs - only two earned, and struck out seven batters. Harvey throws four pitches; a fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a change up.
Marquis will be making his 843th spot start for the Padres. He was originally signed on May 29th to fill the gaps left behind by injuries to the Padres starting pitching staff. He has since become a staple of the Padres staff. Marquis has started 11 games for the Padres and has posted a 4.08 ERA. This is, of course, far better than his 8.47 ERA in seven starts for the Twins. In his last five starts, Marquis has fared a bit worse than he did early on with the club. He has posted a 4.85 ERA since early July. Marquis biggest attribute, aside from the fact that his name sounds like marquee, is his improved command with the Padres. He has posted a 2.5 BB/9 ratio this year with San Diego, by far the lowest of his career.
You all are still getting to know me, but I feel like you assume I'm a pessimist. To prove you wrong, I'm going all in here. I think the Padres will sweep the Mets. They will be back home, their team is gelling like never before this year, and the trade deadline pressure has finally been lifted off Chase Headley's shoulders. I don't expect the offense to be huge, but San Diego can and will win all three of these games.