San Diego (33-34) has won 4 straight and is gaining ground fast on first place Arizona (37-30) in an otherwise crowded and competitive NL West. The Padres (33-34) have won four in a row thanks largely to a 1.71 ERA from the starters, who have each gone at least seven innings in each contest. Eric Stults provided the latest gem Friday, tossing a two-hitter in a 2-1 win over the Diamondbacks in the opener of this three-game series at Petco Park.
While Jason Marquis (8-2 3.59) is shaping up to have one of his better career overall seasons going 7-0 over his last 9 starts, one guy the Padres are going to need to improve down the stretch is Clayton Richard. You can't really blame manager Bud Black for making such a move considering the fact Richard, who is so far winless in June has given up 10 ER in as many innings with an overall ERA close to 6.5 at Petco Park. Marquis can tend to be a bit on the wild side as evident of his 45 BB in 77 IP, however one of his trademarks over his career is picking up ample run support while not being at his best. Tonight he faces an Arizona lineup that is averaging nearly 4.5 runs per contest while hitting a collective and respectable .263. However with the exception of Paul Goldscmidt (.309 15 59) who has belted 15 of his team's 55 HR and perhaps utility specialist Eric Chavez (.325 7 25) who is battling a torn oblique muscle injury, the supporting cast has costly underachieved. Goldschmidt is tied for third in the NL in HR and leads the league in RBI as his presence is what is keeping the snakes in contention. Gerardo Parra (.321 5 22) leads the club in hitting and has done a nice job at the top of the lineup, while Did Gregorious (.301 4 15) has come through in the clutch when called upon. Cody Ross (.265 2 17) and Martin Prado (.245 4 20) however have shown to be inconsistent to date and need to provide some timely offense if Arizona plans to hold onto their slim lead out West which is only 2 games ahead of San Francisco and Colorado.
Arizona counters with a struggling Wade Miley (4-5 4.89) who after a solid start to the season has been plagued by inefficiency and a lack of run support over the past month or so. He recently ended a 4 game personal losing streak but was not entirely sharp yielding 3 runs on 11 hits over 6 2/3 IP against St. Louis. Miley has not had much success in his career against San Diego going 1-4 with an ERA of 7.52 in 6 appearances. Miley faces a Padres lineup who despite not missing a beat in putting on base runners has squandered opportunities as of late. San Diego has also averaged better than 4 runs per game and has balance in their lineup evident by their 63 HR. However they are hitting only .250 collectively despite playing at pitcher friendly Petco Park which is one of baseball's lengthy cathedrals despite moving in the fences over the past few seasons. Jedd Gyorko (.284 8 25) has been a cornerstone of the recent success however was just put on the 15 day DL due to a groin strain. Everth Cabrera (.295 4 24) leads SD in hitting and the majors in stolen bases with 30 while caught only 6 times. Will Venable (.228 8 24) is tied with Gyorko in HR but has fanned 45 times in just 171 AB. Chris Denorfia (.282 4 21) recently ended a 3 for 29 slump and Carlos Quentin (.261 7 22) has had a huge June after starting off slow due to injuries and a suspension from a brawl.
We catch more even money this evening under the lights in search of our 3rd straight win. It will be interesting to see if Miley can shake off a rough month where his pitches lately haven't been fooling the opposition. San Diego has some injuries to deal with but has done more than most anticipated staying in contention. Marquis is going to have to continue to rely on run support and pitch sharp as he is facing an Arizona lineup that although at times going through the motions from a production standpoint can also be intimidating while capable of putting up big innings. Best of luck however you play!