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Series Preview #28, @ San Diego Padres

At the halfway point in the major league season, the Diamondbacks hit the road with their eye on fourth place and the sliding San Diego Padres.

Norm Hall

What's New?

After a disappointing 2-5 start to the home stand, the Diamondbacks hosted the Cleveland Indians with the intention of improving their fortunes. They looked to get the two-game set off to a strong start on Tuesday night, fighting back from a two-run deficit in the 11th inning to pick up the 9-8 win on second baseman Aaron Hill's walk-off RBI single in the 14th inning. On Wednesday night, Indians starter Corey Kluber powered through the Diamondbacks lineup, going seven shutout innings and giving up just four hits as Cleveland would pick up the 6-1 win.

Arizona's offense is slightly below league average when looking at the team's wRC+ (weighted runs created plus), which ranks 21st in the majors (91). They're batting .256/.309./.397 as a team this season, and have struggled with baseball's 21st-ranked offensive WAR (wins above replacement) at -30.1. Despite their inability to convert their runs, it is not through their ability to get on base. They actually get on base at a league-average rate, posting the 16th-best wOBA (weighted on-base average) in baseball. Arizona still has the third-worst team ERA in baseball (4.45), and when looking at their FIP (fielder independent pitching) they're the 26th-ranked team in baseball (4.11). Arizona's pitching staff likes to pitch to contact, which has really gotten them into trouble this season in giving up the fifth-highest BABIP (batting average on balls in play) in baseball (3.08). At the halfway point in their season, Arizona is 33-48, 14.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. They head back on the road, where they are 18-18 this season.

San Diego's offense is putrid, and that's being generous. They have the league's worst offense according to their wRC+ (75), and it's not even close to the mark of the second-worst team. They're also dead worst in offensive WAR (-81.5), more than 20 wins less than the Cubs for 30th in the majors. They're hitting .216/.275/.340 as a unit, and strike out at the third-worst rate in baseball (22.2%). They still have a top-ten team ERA, posting the seventh-best in the majors (3.38). When adjusted for FIP, they're shown to be the fifth-best staff in baseball (3.48), striking out batters at the ninth-best rate in baseball (8.06 K/9).

San Diego appeared to be off to a great start in their last series against San Francisco (their first since firing general manager Josh Byrnes), taking the first two games in the Bay Area. Then, their offense was exposed in a BIG way Wednesday afternoon, as Giants right hander Tim Lincecum threw a no-hitter against them for the second consecutive season to power to a 4-0 win. The Padres have now split their last ten games, and are kicking off a nine game home stand that sees Arizona, Cincinnati, and San Francisco come into town. They're 19-21 at home, and 34-45 overall, 12.5 games behind San Francisco for first place in the NL West.

On The Mend

Diamondbacks catcher Jordan Pacheco was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday with a right shoulder strain, according to Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona.

Roster Moves

After Arizona placed catcher Jordan Pacheco on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, they recalled right hander Zeke Spruill from Triple-A Reno for his second stint in the majors this season.

When San Diego placed right hander Andrew Cashner on the 15-day disabled list (again) on Tuesday, they elected to select the contract of right hander Odrisamer Despaigne from Triple-A El Paso.

Haltime: How'd We Do?

It's been a rough first half of the season for Arizona, as they have fallen far short of the preseason expectations that saw them contending for a playoff spot in the National League. But there have been some positive signs, from Paul Goldschmidt's consistency to the emergence of Chris Owings as a Rookie of the Year contender.

Ever since posting the worst record in April in franchise history, the Diamondbacks have appeared to rebound, playing near-.500 baseball since the calendar turned to May and finding some young pieces in their lineup and their pitching staff. Chase Anderson (5-3, 3.63 ERA in eight starts) and Evan Marshall (2-2, 4.12 ERA in 21 appearances) have emerged as solid pieces as Arizona has said goodbye to former pieces such as Trevor Cahill (although he still is in the minors) and J.J. Putz.

The first half also brought new faces, the biggest of which being Chief Baseball Officer and former Cardinals, Athletics, and White Sox manager Tony La Russa. La Russa has already said that Arizona will "probably" be more sellers than buyers come this year's trade deadline, which means there are plenty of faces that will be coming and going in coming weeks. Some of the names commonly thrown around as assets include: Martin Prado, Aaron Hill, Addison Reed, and Cody Ross. In fact, according to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Arizona is already shopping right hander Brandon McCarthy.

So what's to come in the second half of 2014? Who knows, but with the expectation of while moves, the uncertain job security of Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers, and this D-Backs team trying to crawl out of last place, it could be quite entertaining.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1, Friday 6:40 PT: RHP Brandon McCarthy (1-10, 5.38 ERA, 3.99 FIP) vs. RHP Tyson Ross (6-7, 3.22 ERA, 3.68 FIP)

McCarthy has struggled this season to say the least, but there is a glimmer of hope as his only win this season came against these Padres. He got knocked around in his last start, giving up five runs and ten hits over five innings in picking up the loss against the Giants. Ross has picked up two straight losses, but deserved a better fate his last time out, giving up two runs on six hits over seven innings against the Dodgers. Ross has pitched well despite his fielders giving up the most unearned runs in baseball, and has gone at least five innings in his last ten starts.

Game 2, Saturday 7:10 PT: RHP Josh Collmenter (6-4, 3.87 ERA, 4.27 FIP) vs. RHP Eric Stults (2-10, 5.49 ERA, 5.08 FIP)

Although Collmenter came on for an inning of relief in Tuesday's extra-inning win, Arizona is not expected to alter their starting rotation (especially given the off-day). In his last *start*, Collmenter grinded his way through five one-run innings in picking up the win against the San Francisco Giants. Stults is tied with McCarthy for the most losses in the majors this season, but looked the best he has all year in his last start. He pitched seven innings, giving up just two runs on six hits, but still picked up the loss against the Dodgers.

Game 3, Sunday 1:10 PT: RHP Mike Bolsinger (1-3, 4.78 ERA, 4.18 FIP) vs. RHP Odrisamer Despaigne (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.81 FIP)

Both of these young studs are coming off the best start of their early careers. Bolsinger was on the wrong end of a pitcher's duel in his last outing, giving up a run on five hits over 7.2 innings while picking up the loss against the Giants. Despaigne was stellar in his major league debut, giving up four hits over seven scoreless innings in picking up a win against (guess who?) the San Francisco Giants.

Series Pick'em

Tyson Ross has developed a reputation early in his career for pitching well against Arizona, and while McCarthy's only win this season came against San Diego, he won't be enough for the win. It's almost the exact opposite in the second matchup, as I think Collmenter is capable of putting together a solid outing to get Arizona the win. In the rubber match, it appears to be a toss up. I simply haven't seen enough of Despaigne, so I'm going with the guy with (slightly) more experience. Arizona takes two of three.