The Padres are sky high after winning their second straight series – and first of the season on the road – as they head into Denver for a big weekend set with the Colorado Rockies.
The Friars have now won five of six, taking the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday for the series win.
Now they get the division rival Rockies, who turned heads with an impressive start and sit in second place in the National League West. But they limp into the weekend having lost five of six, including two of three to those same Reds.
Still, they’re always tough at home, winning nine of their last 12 at Coors Field and carrying a 13-5 record on the season at home. They have a major-league best .353 home batting average and have hit 33 home runs in the rarified air at Coors.
That high altitude is music to the ears of a Padres lineup that has scored more than five runs a game over the past week, easily the best stretch for a group that has been offensively challenged for much of the season.
Friday, 5:40 p.m.: Eric Stults (2-3, 5.03 ERA) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (4-3, 4.81)
Stults has struggled most of the season, but got the win in his last start. He hasn’t walked a batter in two straight outings. De La Rosa has won four straight. His last loss came to the Padres in April.
Saturday, 5:10 p.m.: Robbie Erlin (2-4, 4.22) vs. Jordan Lyles (5-0, 2.66)Erlin has been quietly effective, putting up three straight quality starts. Lyles has been even better, allowing two runs or less in his last five outings.
Sunday, 1:10 p.m.: Andrew Cashner (2-5, 2.35) vs. Juan Nicasio (4-2, 3.77)
Can Cashner finally get some run support? The Padres have scored just two runs in his last four starts. Nicasio has allowed just three earned runs in his last three.
What’s at stake: Both teams are jockeying for position behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants, with the Rockies four games back and the Padres three behind them. The bigger worry is if the Giants are going to run away with this thing, as they carry the best record in the National League into a weekend series with the Miami Marlins.
The Pads and Rockies split a four-game set in mid-April. They won’t meet again until the second week in July.
Who to watch: Suddenly, there is a plethora of Padres bats to mention, but it has to start with Seth Smith. The reigning NL Player of the Week just keeps ripping the ball. He flied out in a pinch-hit at bat in the nightcap on Thursday, ending a nine-game hit streak. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that he is 11 for his last 19 with 7 RBIs.
Rene Rivera got the offense going Thursday with a two-run home run. He has all nine of his RBIs in his last six starts.
Yonder Alonso is 9-for-20 in his last six games and hit his first homer in nearly a year on Thursday. Everth Cabrera also hit his first long ball of the season on Thursday and has seven hits in his last six games.
On the flip side, Jedd Gyorko continues to struggle. He has just one hit in his last 17 at bats after swatting a pair of homers and driving in six against Miami a week ago.
For the Rockies, Troy Tulowitzki is absolutely murdering the ball this season. He leads all of baseball by nearly 50 points with a .391 average (Smith is now third at .336), adding a team-high 11 homers and 33 RBIs.
Charlie Blackmon has come back to earth after leading the league in hitting for much of April. He’s still hitting .333 but is just 5 for his last 25.
And don’t sleep on Carlos Gonzalez. While he’s had a slow start to the season and is just 4-for-22 over the last week, it’s just a matter of time before CarGo gets it rolling.
What’s next: The Padres might not want to come home after spending the weekend in the big-hitting ballpark in Denver. But they’ll head back to America’s Finest for a quick two-game set against the Twins starting on Tuesday, followed by four with the Chicago Cubs next weekend. It’s the 30th anniversary of the NLCS win over the Lovable Losers, so feel free to bring that up to any Cubs fans you may see in town next week.