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Series Preview, #34: Arizona Diamondbacks @ San Diego Padres

Photos of mythical beasts, #36: A Padres home-run at Petco.
Photos of mythical beasts, #36: A Padres home-run at Petco.

With the Colorado Rockies ticked off Arizona's "to do" list, the Diamondbacks head out on the road, for a sweep that will take them through the rest of the NL West. It starts of in San Diego, and you'd better get use to seeing these Padres, as we face them thirteen times over the last sixty games of this season. The good news is, they're in the cellar of the NL West for a reason, with only the crappy Cubs and appalling Astros having a worse record. On the other hand, they're 3-2 against us this year, so Arizona will be looking to improve on that this series.

Got to go back to the middle of May to find the last time we met, however, with the teams squeezing in a quick two-game set at Chase. Armando Galarraga lost the opener, in what would (in all likelihood) turn out to be his final appearance as a Diamondback, but Daniel Hudson pitched seven strong in the other game, and Arizona prevailed 6-1. Worth noting that, since the end of that series, only Philadelphia (39-20) have a better record in the National League than our 37-24. The Giants have the same pace; the Padres are third in the West, but 10 games back, on 27-34.

San Diego
Hitting (wRC+): 97 86
Pitching (FIP):
San Diego
Fielding (UZR):
27.7 2.0 Arizona

It was a bit of a surprise that the Padres, who came so close to the playoffs last year, basically opted to punt 2011, trading Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox. However, it probably was for the best, as I doubt even A-Gon could have rescued an offense that has already been shut out 15 times, and held to one run or less in more than 30% of their games. Part of that is Petco, obviously, but even away from there, their team OPS is .667, well below the league average on the road, .691. The infield has been particularly woeful, with Chase Headley the lonely man not stuck with a sub-90 OPS+ among their regulars.

It's the lack of power that's most remarkable. At the current pace, they will have only one batter - Ryan Ludwick - reach double-digits in home-runs. That hasn't been seen over a full season in the majors since Todd Zeile led the 1991 Cardinals with 11 HR. It's particularly notable at Petco, where the Padres have hit only 24 home-runs in 50 games, and that's a good part of why they have averaged 2.88 runs per game there. Though hitting a collective .216 there is not helping. The team will run, however: they are the sole NL team with over a hundred SBs (108), and at an 80% success-rate, they're quite good at it, too.

Of course, it's the pitching which, as usual, is keeping the Padres in games, though young pitcher Mat Latos has been a disappointment this season, going 5-10 with an ERA+ of 88, well off the 126 figure posted in 2010. Tim Stauffer has become the unexpected ace, with a 117 ERA+; Dustin Moseley and veteran Aaron Harang are not far behind. Closer Heath Bell is on pace for his third consecutive 40-save season - though whether it's in San Diego or elsewhere is a legitimate question, but the best pitcher for the Padres might be Mike Adams, who has held batters to a .192 OBP - not BA - in 45 appearances this season.

Typical Padries line-up

  1. Chris Denorfia, RF
  2. Jason Bartlett, SS
  3. Chase Headley, 3B
  4. Ryan Ludwick, LF
  5. Cameron Maybin, CF
  6. Orlando Hudson, 2B
  7. Jesus Guzman, 1B
  8. Rob Johnson, C

Former Arizona fan-favorite Hudson had sat out a few games after ramming into a wall down the first-base foul-line last week, momentarily knocking himelf out. But O-Dawg played yesterday, so should be able to start against Arizona. Maybin is day-to-day with a strained left hip. He left Sunday's game in the fourth, and didn't start the series finale in Philadelphia on Monday.

Pitching match-ups

Tuesday: Joe Saunders (6-8, 3.82) vs. Dustin Moseley (3-9, 3.19)
There's some suggestion Saunders' is over-performing, but Joe doesn't seem to care. He has given the D-backs six quality starts in his last seven appearances, with a 2.54 ERA over that time. However, Arizona are only 3-4 in those games, having scored four runs or less in six of them. I guess Saunders must have forgotten "how to win" this season... However, don't expect any sympathy from Moseley, as he has received the second-lowest run support in the entire majors, with the Padres having scored a mere 2.44 runs per game on his account.

Wednesday: Ian Kennedy (11-3, 3.22) vs. Corey Luebke (3-4, 2.65)
Luebke spent most of the season in the Padres' bullpen, but moved to the rotation at the end of June, and the results have been impressive: a 1.86 ERA with opposing hitters held to a .176 average over 29 innings. However, in three of those games, the San Diego offense managed only one run, so he may soon be challenging Moseley on that run-support thing. However, he is a bit Collmenter-esque; it took him 110 pitches to get through five innings last start, so patience might lead to his departure. Kennedy is... Well, you know him well enough.

Thursday: Daniel Hudson (10-6, 3.72) vs. Mat Latos (5-10, 4.05) [day game]
Hudson was not his usual self against the Rockies, and we'll want to see him return to form here, in what's really a tune-up for his far more important next start, in San Francisco. He got his first L since May 12, and if he doesn't get his next for another two months-plus, we'll be happy with that. As noted above, Latos has not quite been the stud he promised to be for much of his sophomore year. His struggles started during his last five games of 2010, since when he is 5-15 with a 4.72 ERA. He can struggle early in particular: his first inning ERA this year is 5.21, with 12 walks in 19 games.

Brave prediction.
Good teams win; great teams sweep. Arizona should certainly be looking to take at least two of three, and there's a case to be made that the pitching match-up favors the visitors in all three contests, as the front of our rotation meets the Padres' back-end. With that, and the obvious advantage to the Diamondbacks on offensive talent, I'm upgrading my round-table prediction from two wins and calling for a road sweep. These upcoming nine games have a good chance of defining the 2011 season, for good or evil. Let's get it done.

[Records through Monday night, individual stats through Sunday, because Fangraphs haven't updated their numbers yet]