I don't want to sound like a negative Nancy, especially after the Padres have been playing so good for so long, but the team has not looked very good in the last three series. They have looked a lot like their pre-All-Star-Break selves. But the fact is, San Diego has outperformed the expectations we had for them as the month of May ended. They've already won more games this season than they did last season. They have a solid foundation to build on for 2013, and the rest of the league is taking notice.
But it still sucks seeing them lose a series to the Dodgers.
San Diego will get a shot at redemption as they host the 2012 National League West Champion San Francisco Giants. The Giants have no shot at earning the best record in the NL, so they can start setting their play-off rotation and resting players as necessary. This could be a good thing for our Padres who are playing for nothing more than pride right now. San Diego shouldn't be taking it easy in these final six games, so they have a shot at taking advantage of a Giants team who is likely already looking forward to their match-up with either Washington or Cincinnati.
Some things to look forward to as we head into this final week of the season: Will Chase Headley get 30 home runs, will Yonder Alonso be able to overtake Headley in batting average, and will Clayton Richard be able to lock down a 15-win season. Consider this; the 2011 Padres didn't have a single player with more than 11 home runs and not a single pitcher with more than 14 wins. As a team the 2012 Padres have scored 32 more runs than the 2011 team. The injuries to the pitching staff have hurt this season though. San Diego has given up 71 more runs this year compared with last.
Game One - 7:05 PM PT
Ryan Vogelsong vs. Andrew Werner
Vogelsong has dominated San Diego this season. He has a 2.81 ERA this year against the Pads, and he has struck out 17 Friars in 16 innings. However, his last start - against the Padres no less - was his only really good one in the last eight starts he's made. In those last eight starts, Vogelsong has seen his ERA jump from 2.27 on August 8th to 3.58 now. But again, his last start was a good one against San Diego in San Francisco. He went six innings, allowed five hits, and gave up just one run. We're probably seeing something more along the lines of who Vogelsong really is now as a pitcher this season. An ERA at around 3.50 while spending most of his time in a pitcher's park makes sense. Last season, and Vogelsong's 2.71 ERA, did not make sense.
Werner has been disappointing of late. However, he came out of nowhere to impress us, so to say he;s been disappointing isn't really fair. Werner didn't even play baseball affiliated with the Majors until last season. He spent his first two professional baseball seasons playing independent league baseball. The independent league is where players like Jose Canseco and Ricky Henderson go to die (baseball-wise of course as both are very much alive). But then Werner suddenly showed and ability to get hitters out - good hitters. He made his debut this season and was dazzling for four consecutive starts. He's dropped off in his last two, giving up 10 runs in 8 2/3 innings combined over those last two. You have to wonder if he is tiring at the end of a season split between three levels. He's approaching 160 innings-pitched combined between the levels.
Game Two - 5:35 PM PT
Madison Bumgarner vs. Eric Stults
Because Bumgarner is so good, I feel an overwhelming desire to revert to child-like name-calling or insults. Something like, "Hey Madison, that's a girl's name!" would be fitting. But I'm not going to stoop to that level (I already did, didn't I?). Instead, I'll just present you with the facts. Bumgarner has a 3.26 ERA this season, but he has a 3.08 ERA against the Padres. He's tossed 26 1/3 innings against San Diego in 2012 and has allowed only nine earned runs. And he doesn't walk anyone. Against the Padres, Bumgarner has only walked eight batters. After a streak of four bad starts for him, Bumgarner has been solid in his last two outings. In his last outing, also against San Diego, he went 5 2/3 innings, gave up five hits, and allowed three runs (two earned). The 23-year old is pretty good for being, well, a 23-year old.
Stults is seeming less and less like a fluke this year. He has a 7-3 record and a 2.81 ERA. It's been an impressive run that's seen him start 13 out of his 17 appearances this season. He was brought on as a starter to fill the void left by countless injuries to the pitching staff, but he got injured himself and went back to the bullpen upon return. The Padres brought him out of the dungeon again, though, and have allowed him to continue starting - and he hasn't let the team down. The last time Eric Stults gave up more than three runs in a game was on August 18th. The last time before that was May 29th. And that's it. He's only given up more than three runs in a game twice this season. He has struggled against the Giants though. In 14 innings, Stults has a 5.14 ERA against San Francisco.
Game Three - 1:05 PM PT
TBA vs. Edinson Volquez
The Giants have not yet announced their starter for Sunday. This is probably due in large part because they're not sure who it will be. They will likely be opening up the postseason on Friday of next week and will need to set their Division Series rotation.
Volquez will make his final start of the season on Sunday. He picked up the only win in the Dodgers series and ran his record to .500 on the season. He has a chance to finish with a winning record for the first time since his shortened 2010 season when he went 4-3. Volquez is still battling for that top spot in walks this year. As it stands today, he is one behind Toronto's Ricky Romero with 102. He'll get his shot Sunday to walk a few more batters and take home the crown and wildest pitcher of the year. Volquez was impressive in his last outing. He went seven innings, allowed six hits, and didn't surrender a single run. And he only walked two batters! It's like he wasn't even trying to win the Most Walks Award for 2012. He has a surprisingly low ERA against San Francisco which bodes well. In his only start this year against the Giants, Volquez gave up just two runs - good enough for a 2.57 ERA on the year.
It hurts every time I call for the sweep and the Padres lose. The last two series have made it tough to keep the confidence up. So, I'm going to the old trusty statistics. Wait, the stats shout out that the Padres will only win one game in this series, Volquez's start. His ERA against the Giants and the lack of an announced opposing pitcher is the only thing indicative of success. Forget the stats. Let's do what we do as Padres fans, let's hope. I'm predicting the sweep, folks! That's right, the Padres will get back on track and carry some success into the offseason with them. Sweep.
Keep the Faith!!