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Game #144 Preview: 9/14, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres

The white-hot battle to avoid fourth-place in the NL West comes to Chase Field...

Can't spell "Matt Kemp" without an E...
Can't spell "Matt Kemp" without an E...
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

The La Russa Heartbreakometer

What is this?

Heart Left WWWWWWWW Heart right
James Shields
RHP, 11-6, 3.90
Jeremy Hellickson
RHP, 9-8, 4.60
Wil Myers - 1B A.J. Pollock - CF
Yangervis Solarte - 3B Ender Inciarte - RF
Matt Kemp - RF Paul Goldschmidt - 1B
Justin Upton - LF David Peralta - LF
Jedd Gyorko - SS Welington Castillo - C
Cory Spangenberg - 2B Jake Lamb - 3B
Derek Norris - C Phil Gosselin - 2B
Travis Jankowski - CF Jeremy Hellickson - RHP
James Shields - RHP Chris Owings - SS

Hellickson returns to the mound tonight for the Diamondbacks, so I'd recommend comfortable shoes. He hasn't pitched for us in more than three weeks, last appearing against the Pirates on August 17, when he got the W for 5.1 innings of one-run ball. That was his second successive start allowing one run, as his previous outing had been one of his best this season, holding the Phillies to just an unearned run over eight innings. Obvious caveat: it was the Phillies, currently locked in a dead-hear with the Braves for first-place in Tankapalooza 2015. The Padres might present a bit more of a challenge.

Albeit only a bit more, with San Diego being ranked 24th in the majors by fWAR from their hitters, compared to Philadelphia's 29th. Only Justin Upton has been worth two wins for them this season, as he heads towards the free-agent market this winter. Meanwhile, Shields has not exactly lived up to the $75 million contract signed with San Diego this winter either, being worth 1.2 fWAR so far. bWAR is slightly kinder to him, at 1.5 wins, but an ERA+ of 95 doesn't seem to justify the eight-figure salary he is getting this year. Maybe the problem with 'Big Game' James, is that San Diego will not be playing any big games this year.

And 2016 isn't exactly looking good, considering they are on pace for 75 wins, which would be two fewer than they managed last season, before GM A.J. Preller went on a rebuilding spree this winter, increasing San Diego's payroll by over 50%, and that's on top of the all-time high it already was in 2014. While attendance at Petco is up by over 3,500 a game, it's safe to say that a fourth-place finish and a decline in wins is not what the owners wanted to see. With a minor-league system largely bereft (ranked #25 before the season), one wonders how patient they will be, and what Preller's "Plan B" might be, not least given the impending departure of his best hitter.