Ladies and gentlemen, your third place San Diego Padres!
Yes, you read that right. After an impressive sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, the Friars have surged into the middle of the pack in the National League West with a season-high four-game win streak. Now they get a matchup with a reeling San Francisco Giants club that has lost eight of 10 and 17 of their last 22 to relinquish the division lead.
Could this be a turning point in what has been a tumultuous season so far? Well, let’s not get carried away. But if this keeps up, people might focus a bit less on what may have been the worst month of hitting in the history of baseball and pay more attention to what has been some incredible pitching over the past few weeks.
That’s gotta be good for something, right?
Let’s break down this weekend’s Cali Civil War (North vs. South).
Friday, 7:10 p.m.: Eric Stults (L, 2-1, 5.38) vs. Matt Cain (R, 1-6, 4.38)
Each of Stults’ last eight decisions have been losses and the Padres have dropped eight of the last nine games he started. Cain is 0-3 since coming off the disabled list in June.
Saturday, 4:15 p.m.: Odressamer Despaigne (R, 2-0, 0.66) vs. Tim Hudson (R, 7-5, 2.59)
Just one run in his first 13 2/3 innings. Can O-Dog keep it up? Hudson has lost his last three starts after winning three in a row.
Sunday, 1:10 p.m.: Jesse Hahn (R, 4-1, 1.95) vs. Tim Lincecum (R, 7-5, 4.06)
Oh god, not Lincecum again. He was lights out last week in no-hitting the Padres for the second time in as many years. If anyone can match him right now, it’s the rookie Hahn, who has allowed just two earned runs in his four-game win streak.
What’s at stake: Don’t look now, but we might have some meaningful baseball in our future if this keeps up. The Padres are now just 9 ½ games out and only nine games under .500. It’s not time to get excited yet, but just something to think about.
As for the Giants, they looked like they were going to run away with the division a month ago but now find themselves looking up at the Dodgers in the standings – that’s not place anybody wants to be.
The Padres are 5-4 against the Giants this season, taking two from them in San Fran last week. They don’t face off again until playing each other in seven of the season’s final 10 games.
Who to watch:
Padres: The newly minted Seth Smith had four hits against the Reds and continues to lead the team in all major hitting categories, including home runs (9), RBI (25), batting average (.282) and walks (38).Carlos Quentin went yard on Tuesday for just the fourth time this season. He’s still hitting just .185 on the season.
Rene Rivera was the hero at the plate on Wednesday, driving in all three Padres runs with a first-inning single.
Giants: Hunter Pence has team highs in hits (100) and runs (60) and is riding a six-game hitting streak. Michael Morse leads the team with 13 homers and 44 RBI, but has just one hit in his last six games.
Angel Pagan leads the team in hitting (.307) but has been out since mid-June with a back injury.
Coming up: The division tour continues as the Padres hit the road to play the Rockies and Dodgers in what is probably the most important week-and-a-half of the season.