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Series Preview #14: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres

After a week and a half of watching fly-balls die on the warning track of sea-level baseball parks, our beloved Diamondbacks return to their dry, 1,117-feet-above-sea-level home to host the San Diego Padres.  Hopefully, a return to the Mountain Time Zone means a return to the Diamondbacks' offensive ways of the past.  Although, if we could petition the league to let us play the bottom half of every inning in Dodger Stadium, it might not be such a bad idea.

As you should recall, seeing as we played these guys a week ago, our last meeting with the Padres ended with them taking the series two games to one in Petco Park.  Since then, the Padres have gone 3-3, as they avoided a sweep in Milwaukee by scoring 8 runs in the eighth inning of the final game before heading to Denver and smacking the Rockies around Coors Field.  As such, they find themselves only 5.5 games behind the Giants and half a game behind the Diamondbacks.  Which is annoying, because the last time I did one of these for the Padres, they were 12-19 and their fans were resigned to a season of futility.  They aren't necessarily playing well, but they're playing better baseball than they were just ten days ago, and that could be enough to give the D-Backs some problems.

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):

                         Arizona (17-22)                                San Diego (17-23)                                    Edge

Hitting (wRC+):    88                                                       89                                                 San Diego

Pitching (FIP):     4.19                                                    3.53                                               San Diego

Fielding* (UZR):   8.5                                                      9.4                                                San Diego

Remember all those jokes I made about the Padres offense last time I wrote one of these?  About how awful the top of their order was? About how Ryan Ludwick was miscast as a 3-hole hitter?  About how terrible Brad Hawpe was?  Well, the D-Backs' offense is officially worse than that.  I'll let that sink in for a second.

Still there?  Good.  Just as our offense has swooned, the Padres' hitters have perked up a little since our last encounter with them.  They Coors Field-ed their way into scoring 24 runs in their last series against the Rockies, and scored 22 runs in the series before that against the Brewers.  Following this deluge of runs, the Padres offense has moved from horrendous to merely bad on the season, which represents significant improvement.  But just because they can't make things too easy for themselves, their pitching has struggled over the past week, as they've given up 39 runs over the same period.  Basically, they were the exact opposite (good pitching and no hitting) of the Diamondbacks (good hitting and Armando Galarraga) right up until the series where they met and promptly both went in the opposite direction.  If this was a Disney movie, I'd assume that, like, Tinkerbell, or someone saw that both fanbases were complaining about their teams, and decided to switch them to teach Diamondback and Padre fans about the value of not taking things for granted.  Or something like that.  I don't watch enough Disney movies.

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Chris Young, CF
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Justin Upton, RF
Stephen Drew, SS
Russell Branyan, 1B
Miguel Montero, C
Ryan Roberts, 3B
Gerardo Parra, LF

San Diego Padres

Will Venable, RF
Jason Bartlett, SS
Ryan Ludwick, LF
Chase Headley, 3B
Cameron Maybin, CF
Brad Hawpe, 1B
Eric Patterson, 2B
Rob Johnson, C

The only thing that's changed personnel-wise for the Padres is the loss of C Nick Hundley, who has very quietly been having a very good season and has been one of the Padres' best hitters so far.  However, the rest of team has started hitting to make up for the loss of Hundley.  The combination of Will Venable and Jason Bartlett at the top of the order has ceased to be embarrassing and become merely below-average in the past week, as they have an OPS+ of 76 and 75, respectively.  Cameron Maybin has simply exploded in the past week, as he now has an OPS+ of 131 on the season.  Even Brad Hawpe demonstrated that he still has a pulse, as he hit a game-winning home run on Saturday to complete the comeback over his former team.  So while the Padres still don't have what you might call an "intimidating" lineup, it looks a great deal less catatonic than it did last time around.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday: Clayton Richard (1-4, 4.79) vs. Armando Galarraga (3-3, 5.50)

Insightful Analysis: Armando Galarraga actually pitched pretty well against the Giants until about the fourth inning when his director gave him some notes and informed him that he was going too far off-character.  His last two starts have been against two of the worst offenses in baseball (at the time he faced them) in two of the worst run-scoring environments in baseball.  He didn't manage a Quality Start in either game.  Sigh...

Clayton Richard has been a generally solid starter for the Padres in the year and a half since they acquired him in the Jake Peavy trade.  His ERA is inflated a bit, thanks to a rough start last time around, where he got roughed up to the tune of 7 runs in 3.1 innings.  In general though, he gets good results despite having a K% and a BB% below league-average.  Still, he's not Daniel Hudson, and considering that the Padres almost got Hudson rather than Richard in that trade, we should be grateful for that. 

Tuesday: Tim Stauffer (0-1, 3.47) vs. Daniel Hudson (3-5, 4.41)

Insightful Analysis:  Speaking of Daniel Hudson, he went 6.2 innings and gave up 3 runs in his last outing against the Giants.  He probably should have been pulled at the beginning of the seventh inning, when he allowed a leadoff double, and a combination of fatigue and bad luck caused him to surrender his last two runs.  Pitch economy was a problem for Hudson in the game, as he threw 117 pitches and allowed three walks after only allowing one walk in the previous three games.

The D-Backs essentially started their offensive funk against Stauffer, as he out-pitched Galarraga in the first game of the previous series, going 6.2 innings without giving up a run.  However, in his next start, he got tagged for six runs against Milwaukee.  So I'd prefer to see that version of Tim Stauffer, if at all possible.

Final Verdict: These two-game series are weird, and they make it too easy for me to have a cop-out when making predictions.  And of course, that's exactly what I'm going to do: Padres and D-Backs each win a game.

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(All batting data courtesy of Baseball-Reference, all pitching data courtesy of Fangraphs)