If and when the Padres lament their inability to remain in the playoff chase this season, they will circle the past week as a golden opportunity that came up empty.
Facing seven games with the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks – teams with the two worst records in the National League – they were only able to win three of them, including an ugly 12-6 loss against the D’backs on Wednesday. That drops them to 11 back in the standings and puts the rest of the season in peril.
The Friars now travel to the South Side of Chicago to take on the White Sox, who have been getting it done. They just swept division the rival Cleveland Indians and trail the first-place Detroit Tigers by only 4 1/2 games in the AL Central.
Despite injuries to rookie slugger Jose Abreu and ace starter Chris Sale, the Sox have won five of their last seven as they conclude a 10-game homestand this weekend.
It’s the first trip to U.S. Cellular Field since 2003 for the Padres. Maybe the change of scenery will do them some good. Let’s take a look at the series.
What’s at stake: After the ugly week that was, the Friars find themselves closer to the bottom of the standings than the middle. They now trail the Dodgers and Rockies by 4 1/2 games and lead the last-place D’backs by just 2. Gotta get back in the pack before you can think about anything else right now.
One of the big problems has been the Padres’ road woes. They have lost seven of their last nine series away from home. They are also 4-7 in interleague play. After this, there are only six more American League matchups on the schedule.
After scuffling through the first month of the season, the Sox find themselves up in the mix as the playoff contenders start to separate themselves. They head west after this to play the Dodgers and Angels before a big home series against the Tigers.
Friday, 5:10 p.m.: Ian Kennedy (3-6, 3.59) vs. John Danks (3-4, 4.90)
Kennedy is coming off a strong outing against the Cubs where he allowed just two hits over six innings. He’s averaging exactly seven strikeouts a game over his last nine starts. Danks threw eight shutout innings against the Yankees his last time out, but didn’t get a decision.
Saturday, 11:10 a.m.: Tyson Ross (5-4, 2.97) vs. Andre Rienzo (4-1, 3.95)
After four straight starts of allowing just one earned run, Ross got rocked by the D’backs for four runs on nine hits in just five innings. He still has the best ERA of the starters. Rienzo, a native of Brazil, has allowed three earned runs or less in his last six starts during his first full season in the bigs.
Sunday, 11:10 a.m.: Eric Stults (2-5, 4.92) vs. Jose Quintana (3-4, 3.61)
Stults walked four against the D’backs last week after issuing just one free pass in his previous four starts. Quintana has given up 27 hits in his last four outings.
Who to watch:
Padres: With Seth Smith finally cooling down with a 1-for-14 slump, we need another hot hitter to focus on. Enter Tommy Medica, who has eight hits in 12 at-bats since getting called up from El Paso last week. He nearly hit for the cycle on Wednesday, getting everything but a single. He’s making a case for a full-time spot in the lineup, either in the outfield or at first base.
Cameron Maybin has 10 hits in his last eight games, but has now gone a whopping 84 at-bats without an RBI this season.
Carlos Quentin will benefit from an American League park as the team’s DH over the weekend. He technically had an eight-game hitting streak snapped on Wednesday when he was hit by a pitch to drive in a run in his only at-bat. But we’ll let that slide for now. Q spent four seasons with the Sox and hit a career-high 36 homers in 2008.
White Sox: Third baseman Conor Gillaspie has hits in eight of his last nine games and is hitting .352 on the season. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez has 10 hits in his last seven games and leads the team with 30 runs scored.
The Sox will be without Jose Abreu, who is still on the disabled list with an ankle injury. The Cuban rookie was the talk of the league in the first month, leading the majors with 15 homers and 42 RBI. He plans to be back when he’s eligible to come off the DL next week.
Up next: The Padres return home on Monday for a week, hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals. It should be a festive weekend set against the Nats, as Friday will be the team’s Summer Beerfest and Saturday is beach blanket giveaway.