Rested Padres Face Equally Hot Pirates

Not that you ever turn down a day off at this point in the season, but the Padres have to be looking to get back on the field before they cool down.

The hottest team in baseball got a rare two off days this week and is now well rested heading to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates this weekend.

After splitting a two-game series with the Minnesota Twins, the Friars have won six of their last eight and still only have one series loss since the All-Star break. They lead the league in hitting and are third in the National League in runs scored during that time with 84. Of course, the team in the other dugout is first in that category with 94.

The Pirates are almost as hot, winning four of six and seven of their last 11.

Could we see a slugfest this weekend at PNC Park? Well, let’s not get carried away.

Friday, 4:05 p.m.:
Ian Kennedy (R, 8-9, 3.59) vs. Vance Worley (R, 4-1, 2.43)
The winner of three straight decisions, Kennedy also beat the Pirates back in June. Worley has allowed just two earned runs in his last three starts.

Saturday, 4:05 p.m.: Eric Stults (L, 4-13, 4.94) vs. Nelson Liriano (L, 3-7, 3.91)
Well, it’s nice to see a Padres player atop the stat list, even if it is Stults leading the league in losses. He’s coming off 6 1/3 scoreless innings in his last start, a win over the Braves. After going more than two months without making it through six innings, Liriano now has three straight quality starts.

Sunday, 10:05 a.m.: Tyson Ross (R, 10-10, 2.62) vs. Charlie Morton (R, 5-10, 3.43)
The streak of two or less earned runs is up to nine starts for Ross. Is there a better .500 pitcher in the league? No, there is not. Morton has just one decision (a loss) in the last month.

What’s at stake: After literally decades of meaningless baseball in Pittsburgh, the Pirates find themselves in the playoff hunt for the second straight year. They trail the Milwaukee Brewers by a game and a half for the NL Central lead and are just a half-game out of the wild card. In fact, the Central could get three playoff teams if the Cardinals hold on and the Bucs beat out San Francisco.
They are separated from the Padres by 8 ½ games and four teams in the wild card race. Seems like a whole other world.

The Pirates took two out of three at Petco in June. This is the last time the teams wills see each other this season.

Who to watch:
It’s almost harder to find a player in this lineup who is not hot. First baseman Yonder Alsonso had six hits and a homer against the Twins and is hitting .429 over his last 10 games. Outfielder Tommy Medica is staying hot after his five-hit, two-homer performance last week. He has 10 hits in his last five games. Shortstop Everth Cabrera is breaking out of a months-long slump with nine hits and 4 RBIs in his last five. And we obviously have to mention Seth Smith, who leads the team in just about everything, including average (.290), homers (12) and RBIs (34). He also has a four-game hitting streak.

Pirates: First off, who we won’t see is reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen, who might be facing a trip to the disabled list after breaking a rib. We will see Josh Harrison, who has been mauling the ball over an 11-game hit streak. He has five home runs and 21 hits over that stretch. Catcher Russell Martin is working on a six-game streak of his own and has seven RBIs in that time.

Coming up: The Friars head home to face the Colorado Rockies next week before embarking on a 10-game road trip that includes the Cardinals, Dodgers and Diamondbacks.

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