The Morning Friar - 4/18/11

Mid-April seems a little early to declare a baseball team to be in the midst of a crucial period. But for the Padres, it may be now.

HOUSTON — As soon as we posted Bud Black’s lineup Saturday, the e-mails and tweets started arriving about how could Black give Nick Hundley a day off.

Will Venable hit a two-run single in a four-run eighth inning and the San Diego Padres rallied for an 8-6 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday.

The Series: Last Aug. 16-18, the Padres swept the Cubs for the first time ever in a four-game series at Wrigley Field. Lou Piniella retired as a manager within days and Derrek Lee was traded to Atlanta. The sweep lifted the Padres to 26 games above .500 — within one win over .500 of their highest mark. But the Cubs came to Petco in late September, won three of four and pushed the Padres three games behind the Giants. The Padres were shutout twice in that series. The Cubs are led by shortstop Starlin Castro (.418), third baseman Aramis Ramirez (.351) and left fielder Alfonso Soriano (five homers, 12 RBI)

Rob Johnson is among a host of new faces who comprise the 2011 Padres roster. As a backup catcher to Nick Hundley, the Friars’ hottest hitter, chances are slim Johnson will see a lot of action. Nevertheless, he is a player worth getting to know and deserves fans’ cheers. Johnson is a down-to-earth, hard working man who has persevered through many obstacles and he is eager to please Padres fans.

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