Padres Sweep Pirates, Enter Key Series Up 2 1/2

After getting off to a less-than-stellar start to their six-game easy stretch that fell between key series with the Dodgers and Giants, the Padres pulled themselves together, rebounding from two straight losses to Arizona by crushing the Diamondbacks in the third game and then sweeping the Pirates.

The key to the series for the Padres was to win the first two games, as the pitching matchups there were less ideal than the Zach Duke/Jon Garland duel in Game 3.

The keys to Game 1’s success were Ryan Ludwick snapping out of a funk and bashing two homers and Wade LeBlanc‘s changeup neutralizing the Pittsburgh lineup.

LeBlanc got an uncharacteristic eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings, mainly because he drew ten whiffs on the 37 changeups he threw, an excellent rate. He did a great job keeping righthanded hitters honest by occasionally busting them way inside with his fastball, but mostly working away-away-away.

Game 2 presented the most daunting task for the Padres, as they faced promising young righty James McDonald. I mentioned in my series preview how the Padres were likely to lay off of McDonald’s changeup, and they did, which really seemed to rattle him somewhat. He didn’t bring much curveball command or fastball movement, so he couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning, and the bullpen was no better.

Game 3 featured an excellent performance from Jon Garland, whose crafty style limited the Pirates to just one hit in six innings.

Now it’s on to the biggest series of the year thus far, as the Padres face the Giants in San Francisco, taking a 2 1/2 game lead into the series. The Padres could do anything from end the series a comfortable 5 1/2 up to finishing the three-game set in second place.

Tags: Ryan Ludwick San Diego Padres Wade LeBlanc

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