It was truly a shame that the Padres were swept over the weekend in Tampa Bay. What made this past weekend particularly painful to watch was that our beloved Friars held a late-lead in every game of their series against the Rays.
San Diego saw a 3-2 lead evaporate in the seventh inning on Friday night when Tampa Bay put up four runs to coast to the win. On Saturday evening, Huston Street blew a save in the bottom of the ninth with two outs when Evan Longoria hit a two-run home run to win the game 8-7. And yesterday, the wheels came off once again when in the bottom of the sixth for San Diego when starter Eric Stults allowed two runs to score after the Padres had built a 2-1 lead.
Unfortunately for the Padres, they will not have much time to reflect on what transpired this past weekend. In fact, over the next week and a half, San Diego will probably face their toughest stretch of opponents so far this year.
After today’s off-day, the Padres will stay back east and travel up to Baltimore to take on the Orioles for a two-game series. Still hot off of their surprising run to the postseason last year, Baltimore has enjoyed similar success through the first month and a half of the 2013 campaign.
The Orioles sit in second place in a loaded American League East with a 23-15 record, and they are only one game behind the New York Yankees for the top spot in the division. Native San Diegan Adam Jones (.321 batting average, 5 home runs, 14 doubles, 25 RBI’s), Manny Machado (.331 batting average, 5 home runs, 14 doubles, 24 RBI’s) and Chris Davis (.313 batting average, 11 home runs, 37 RBI’s) have all swung hot bats this year, and the Orioles currently rank third in the league in runs scored (184).
After their series in Baltimore, the Padres will head home to take on the Nationals for a four-game set in San Diego. Like Baltimore, Washington has also carried their positive mojo over from the 2012 season.
The Nationals not only qualified for the postseason for the first time since the franchise was in Montreal (1981), the team came dangerously close to beating St. Louis in the ALDS last year. And just like Baltimore, Washington sits in second place in their division, and they are only one game behind the Atlanta Braves. While the Nationals aren’t nearly as formidable at the plate as the Orioles are, the team ranks 6th in team ERA (3.47) and starters like Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg are always threats to turn in stellar outings on the mound.
As difficult as San Diego’s next six games will be, the Padres will really need to bring their “A game” when they take on the St. Louis Cardinals immediately following their series with the Nationals. St Louis is one of the league’s hottest teams right now as they have won eight of their last 10 games. Even without Albert Pujols for a second straight year, their offense is still a productive force as they rank ninth in the league in batting average (.263) and are led by veterans Yadier Molina (.343 batting average), Carlos Beltran (.298 batting average, 9 home runs, 22 RBI’s) and Allen Craig (.295 batting average and 27 RBI’s).
The Padres however should be more worried about St. Louis’ formidable starting rotation during their three-game series next week. Shelby Miller (5-2 and 1.58 ERA), Adam Wainwright (5-2 and 2.30 ERA), Lance Lynn (5-1 and 2.72 ERA), Jaime Garcia (4-2 and 2.86 ERA), and Jake Westbrook (2-1 and 1.62 ERA) have all done a tremendous job in 2013, and the Cardinals rank first in the league in team ERA (2.89) and have complied 26 quality starts already this year.
Although the next 10 days will be anything but easy for the Friars, I for one am definitely intrigued to see how well that San Diego’s players can respond against some of the league’s best teams after such a crushing sweep in Tampa Bay. The next week and a half should provide a some tremendous litmus tests for the Padres, and any and all learning experiences should serve this team well as they ready themselves for an arduous summer.