As we get to the middle of the second-to-last month of baseball’s regular season, the excitement and perceived importance of each series seems to build. The Padres start a huge three-game set today against the rival Giants, who sit just 2 1/2 back of San Diego for the NL West lead.
How are those three likely to fare in this important set? Find out after the jump.
Before we get into individual pitcher analysis, let’s look at a couple of general splits for the Giants offense this year.
The team has hit .260/.324/.408 off of righties and .266/.341/.408 against lefties. That puts Richard and LeBlanc at a slight disadvantage, but nothing major.
Pitch-wise, San Francisco is similar to the Padres. They hit changeups well, hang in against curves, and struggle against fastballs. The Giants are better than the Padres at hitting heaters, but worse against sliders, which have been their big weak spot.
Okay, so that’s that.
Richard will face the San Francisco lineup first, and as we know, he works almost exclusively fastball/slider to lefties and fastball/changeup to righties.
Aubrey Huff hits both fastballs and sliders well, and Buster Posey and Andres Torres maul fastballs and changeups, so right off the bat, those three could be troublesome. Pat Burrell is another righty who won’t be faced by either of Richard’s pitches, and even Pablo Sandoval and Juan Uribe can hang in with the fastball/changeup combo.
The rest of the team (Freddy Sanchez, Aaron Rowand, Travis Ishikawa, Nate Schierholtz, Mike Fontenot) don’t project to cause much trouble, but who knows: it’s just six or seven innings of one game. Still, there are an awful lot of weapons who can do damage to Richard, and I’m not optimistic this will be one of his better starts.
Happily, the news is better with Latos, as it almost always is. Huff and Burrell are the only two batters who project to match up with him well, as Torres, Ishikawa and Posey have lots of trouble with sliders, and none of the hitters who projected to struggle with Richard have a better prognosis against Latos. As long as he works away from Huff and Burrell, Latos could be as dominant as usual.
LeBlanc is a poor matchup for the Giants. They sit back well on changeups, and it’s not like his fastball or breaking ball makes anyone flinch. Beyond Schierholtz, Sanchez, and Rowand, this is a team that can lay off the slow stuff, so LeBlanc may be forced to bring his mid-80′s heat over the plate, where Huff, Torres, Posey, Burrell, etc. can tee off. I’d be very surprised if LeBlanc makes it out of the sixth inning.
Hopefully the Padres have some offense to back up the lefties! We’ll check out their chances of putting runs on the board in the next part of the series preview later today.