How's it feel to be the fan of one of the best teams in the league? At least for the moment, we can say we root for the best team out there. The Padres are 9-1 in their last ten games. In the process of taking two of three from the Braves, the Padres also pushed Atlanta further behind the Nationals than when the series started. Right now, as I've mentioned before, that's the goal; hurting the postseason chances of any team in contention. Along the way, maybe the Padres can steal third place from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West.
The Padres travel to Coors Field with their offense working well for them. Hopefully we'll see that continue in the thin air of Denver. Yonder Alonso enters the Rockies' series on fire. He has eight hits in the last seven days and is batting .421 during that time. Beyond the offense, the pitching has been fantastic with their new young staff stepping up. They gave up four runs over three games against the Braves. Casey Kelly was phenomenal. Andrew Werner took the only loss of the series, but it was a hard-luck loss in which he gave up just two runs. Finally, Eric Stults threw another gem. Now, the Padres will try to ride that offensive and pitching success into the Mile High City.
Game One - 5:40 PM PT
Clayton Richard vs. Alex White
Richard is the second-best Clayton in the National League West (maybe, he's the only other one, but I'm still considering this a compliment). Clayton Kershaw has a 2.84 ERA, but Richard is hanging in there with a 3.72 ERA himself. Richard has started the most games in the National League and faced the most batters. This speaks to his durability and his ability to go deep into a ballgame - two things the Padres have needed desperately this season. Unfortunately, Richard's success has not extended to Coors Field so far in his career. He has made five starts in Denver, and in those starts he's posted a 9.00 ERA.
Alex White has not been very good this season, but neither have the Rockies. White has started 16 games this year and has a 5.49 ERA. White was the 15th overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Cleveland Indians. He was later traded to the Rockies, but he has struggled since making his Major League debut in April of last year. White has a career 6.10 ERA in 26 starts. More importantly, he has given up six runs against the Padres in 11 2/3 career innings. It's not a lot to go off of, but it's better than going against a guy who have given up no runs in that time.
Game Two - 5:10 PM PT
Edinson Volquez vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Volquez, as I think I've pointed out before, starts every series. The boys here on the staff were making writer to player comparisons, and I was labeled a starter because I show up for every series. Just call me Edinson Volquez. I'm not sure how it's possible (yes I am), but Volquez really does seem to start every series. Volquez has been fantastic in his last two starts. On the 20th against Pittsburgh, Volquez went 6 2/3 innings while only allowing a run. In his last start, against the Diamondbacks*, Volquez went seven innings and gave up just two runs. For the season, Volquez has a dissapointing 4.10 ERA. He has shown flashes of greatness that make his overall ERA this season all the more puzzling. However, his walk totals help make sense of how many runs he gave up this season. He's walked more batters than anyone else in baseball - not good.
*For those keeping track, I gave the last two starts for Volquez and neither of them were against the Braves. This, of course, means he doesn't start every series. This is for everyone who may take it literally when I say Volquez starts every series.
Chacin is in a similar boat as Alex White. He's not good. So far this season, Chacin has a 5.55 ERA this season. In his last two starts, much like Volquez, Chacin has been good. He has given up two runs in his last 11 innings-pitched. In eight games against the Padres, he has posted a 3.30 ERA. While that's not terrible, he has not had much success at home this season. His 8.53 ERA at Coors Field this year is the type of thing this newly successful Padres offense can capitalize on.
Game Three - 12:10 PM PT
Casey Kelly vs. Jeff Francis
Kelly put on a show in his first Major League start. He certainly lived up to the hype of being the Padres' number one prospect. Now, he will get a chance to show that it wasn't a fluke and show some consistency. What would have made this next start even more sweet would have been if it came against the Dodgers. With Adrian Gonzalez in Los Angeles and no longer with the Red Sox, can we still complain about that trade? With Casey Kelly having the potential to be the pitcher we all hoped he would, and with Boston having nothing now, can we say the Padres won that deal? Maybe people wouldn't go that far, but it's fun to watch a prospect from a big trade like Gonzalez's develop. We can only hope he maintains a high level of success.
Jeff Francis has never had an ERA under 4.00 in his career. Heck, he's never even had an ERA under 4.16. To be fair, he has played in Colorado all but one season, and despite the efforts to level the playing field and suppress the offense, Colorado still ranks as number one in park factor for runs scored. So, the 31 year old Canadian gets to battle high run totals and do his best to keep the Rockies in games. In his last two starts, he's more than done that. Francis has combined to give up just one run in ten innings of work in his last two starts. He has struggled against San Diego though. In 133 2/3 innings pitched, Francis has a 5.52 ERA against the Friars. If Kelly can keep the ball in the park, this bodes well for San Diego.
The Rockies are bad. There's no way around that. It'd be easy to go with the sweep call here, but I want to keep it realistic. I can see the Padres taking two out of three. Coors Field is so tough to predict, any one of these games could end in a loss, or the Padres could win all three. However, I see the team continuing their winning ways and inching closer to overtaking the DBacks in the West.
Keep the faith!!