The Padres open a three-game set with the woeful Pirates tonight at Petco Park. It’s their final tuneup for the big showdown with the Giants that follows.
Find out if those three are likely to take care of business after the jump.
The Pirates last played the Padres in late July, and although they’ve made a few moves since then, much of what I wrote back then still applies. From my series preview on July 23:
"The Pirates have the misfortune of being a below-average offensive team against every pitch. They are best against fastballs (-.51 runs per 100 pitches) and curves (-.40), but the team doesn’t have a strong tendency to be a fastball-hitting team, breaking ball-hitting team, or anything else.Right off the bat, that obviously bodes well for the Padres. Correia can throw any of his five pitches with no trouble, Latos’ four plus pitches could wreak havoc, and LeBlanc won’t have to worry about the Pirates crushing his mediocre fastball or being able to stay back on his changeup.Of course, just because the team as a whole struggles with every pitch doesn’t mean they don’t have individual hitters who can do damage against certain pitches. Lastings Milledge, for example, can hit a fastball, but that’s about it. Andrew McCutchen crushes curves and can handle fastballs and changeups. Neil Walker’s had trouble with changeups, but is solid against everything else. Garrett Jones can hang in with hard stuff and crush slow breakers, but struggles with changeups as well. Jose Tabata actually does better with changeups than just about anything else. So do Delwyn Young and Jason Jaramillo.And so on.The key with Correia, plain and simple, is to follow the scouting reports and mix his pitches well. He’s got five offerings, and the Pirates as a whole aren’t going to take tremendous advantage of any of them. If he keeps the batters guessing and simply uses the individual batters’ weaknesses as his out pitches, he’ll do fine…Finally, there’s LeBlanc, who’s a bit trickier to deal with because he’s mostly a fastball/changeup pitcher. Young and Jaramillo can inflict some real damage on changeups, but are all quite inept at catching up to fastballs. Conversely, LeBlanc should throw the changeup quite a bit to Milledge."
Thankfully for me, that covers quite a bit of what needs to be covered.
LeBlanc ultimately gutted out a 6 IP, 3 ER start on July 25 despite allowing seven liners and 11 fly balls. Ronny Cedeno took him deep in the second for a two-run shot, but other than that, he got through it. Allowing a liner an inning is no way to work, though, so LeBlanc will need to tighten up his process, because he can’t afford to have the Pirates stinging the ball all over the yard again, lest luck turn against him.
As for Correia, he did his usual act last time against the Pirates on July 23, striking out nobody but getting 13 grounders in six innings, therefore allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits.
Jon Garland, the Padres’ final starter, will have to contend with Milledge’s ability to hit fastballs, but Garland’s the sort of crafty veteran who can take advantage of Milledge’s aggressive style anyway. Garland has a habit of throwing lots of chase pitches, and the Pirates’ plate discipline is okay, but not great. McCutchen and new acquisition Chris Snyder are the only regular players on the team who chase less than 28% of pitches outside the strike zone. Garrett Jones, Ryan Doumit, Jeff Clement, Milledge, Young, and Cedeno all chase over 30%, and on top of that, Jones, Doumit, Young, and Cedeno all rate below-average on fastballs, which are 80% of Garland’s arsenal.
I’d expect Garland to have his usual quietly effective 6-7 IP, 2-3 ER start. All three pitchers should give the Padres a chance to win, but the Pirates lineup has enough firepower to be dangerous if the Friars’ hurlers don’t execute.