Thursday night was a time for San Diego fans to celebrate the greatest who ever put on a Padres jersey. More than 20,000 packed Petco Park to say goodbye to Hall of Fame legend Tony Gwynn, who left us too soon.
It was a time to grieve and a time to remember. It was also a chance for all of us to get some closure and try to move on, if only just a bit.
The Padres will move on between the white lines as well after a day off Thursday. They have an extended nine-game homestand that starts with the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday.
Now that everyone has had a chance to catch their collective breath, it’s time to look ahead to the rest of the season. Is this going to be a lost cause and another disappointing second half in San Diego? Or will the Padres rally around the recent adversity and make a run in a National League West that is still somewhat up for grabs?
The next week-and-a-half will go a long way to bringing us some answers. Let’s look at the upcoming series with the D’backs.
Friday, 7:10 p.m.: Tyson Ross (R, 6-7, 3.22) vs. Brandon McCarthy (R, 1-10, 5.38)
With Andrew Cashner sidelined, much of the burden of production falls on Ross, who has lost three straight. McCarthy would fit right in on this Padres staff with his 10 losses – including five in a row.
Saturday, 7:10 p.m.: Eric Stults (L, 2-10, 5.49) vs. Josh Collmenter (R, 6-4, 3.87)
Stults scoffs at McCarthy’s rough record and counters with losses in five straight games and seven of his last eight. Collmenter last saw action out of the bullpen, picking up the win in an inning of work against Cleveland earlier this week.
Sunday, 1:10 p.m.: Odrisamer Despaigne (1-0, 0.00) vs. Mike Bolsinger (1-3, 4.78)
Another couple outings like his MLB debut and we could see Odrisamer Mania sweep across Padre nation. Until then, let’s take it one start at a time. The rookie Bolsinger only has six starts under his belt and hasn’t won a game since late April.
What’s at stake: Despite winning five of eight, the Padres are still only two games ahead of the cellar-dwelling D’backs. But they are only a game back of the third-place Colorado Rockies.
Until either team gets within single digits of the division lead (Padres are currently 12 out) there’s no need to fuss. But a sweep this weekend would sure make things look better.
Despite being 15 games under .500, Arizona is actually an even 18-18 on the road this year.
Who to watch:
Padres: Despaigne, the Cuban rookie, could potentially be a bright spot in an otherwise dreary squad. Plus he’s just a lot of fun to watch. Do yourself a favor and check him out on Sunday if you can.
At the plate, Seth Smith is heating up again with seven hits and a pair of homers (almost three) in his last 17 at-bats. He continues to lead the team in long balls (eight), RBI (24), average (.290) and walks (36).
Alexi Amarista had three hits and three RBIs on Tuesday and now has seven hits in the past week. And we’ll keep talking about Jake Goebbert as long as he keeps hitting. The rookie has four hits in his first eight big league at-bats.
Diamondbacks: First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is the guy to watch in this lineup, as he ranks among the lead leaders in homers (15), RBIs, (52) and on-base percentage (.381). Center fielder A.J. Pollock has been a pleasant surprise, leading the team in average (.316) and OPS (.920). He has a whopping nine hits in his last four games.
Coming up: We’re here for a while as the Cincinnati Reds come to town next week, followed by a matchup with the first-place Giants next weekend. Here’s a goal: Down by less than 10 games by the time San Fran hits Petco. Let’s make it happen.