Despite injuries to members of the rotation, Jesse Hahn is making the most of his chances. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
In case you missed it last week, the San Diego Padres are now in third place in the National League West. Sure, they are nearly ten games behind the two teams that are expected to battle until the end of the season, but they are in third. The Rockies have gotten a lot of press with their explosive offense this season. Rightly so, as Troy Tulowiztki is still mashing the ball at a great pace. Yet their pitching rotation is in shambles and without the depth to fill it. The Padres seem to getting by just fine in that department.
If you had said that the Padres, who of course are setting offensive ineptitude records, would lose Josh Johnson, Robbie Erlin, Andrew Cashner to extended periods on the disabled list, it would be a dire picture. Yet, the Padres have responded by throwing in some great performances by Odrisamer Despaigne, Jesse Hahn, and would you believe me if I told you that maybe Billy Beane made a bad decision and let Tyson Ross come to the Padres before the 2013 season and now he is an All-Star? Would you? Yes, June was a really bad month, but the bright spots that emerged was in those rookie pitchers I just talked about and they appear poised to carry the club at least into a strong July. Sure, the Padres lost both games the rookies pitched over the weekend, but don’t blame them. Two quality starts (at least 6IP allowing 3ER or less) and the first blown save of the season by Huston Street contributed to that.
Now come the division games. It’s great to win five straight against the NL Central Reds bookended by a win agains the D’backs and Giants, but now you have 3 in a row against Colorado at Coors Field, and 4 against the first place Dodgers. First of all, there is no place better to get the bats going than Colorado, as the Padres showed in May scoring 15 runs in 3 games. Unfortunately, they only won one of those games, but can you switch that to 2 this time?
Then they play four against the hot Dodgers into the All Star Break. If they can gain 1 game in the Rockies series, then magically sweep the Dodgers – they would enter the All-Star Break just 5.5 behind the Dodgers and 5 games under .500. Possible? Yes. Probable? Not really. Yet the beauty of baseball has been how numbers can be your best friend and your worst enemy. For every start Clayton Kershaw gives that is excellent, the statistics would say he’s one start closer to getting shelled in 3 innings. For every game that Carlos Quentin goes without hitting a home run, he is closer to hitting one based on his propensity to hit home runs throughout his career.
The other side of course is what happens if things don’t go to plan. Losing 3 or 4 games to the Dodgers would bury them deep in double digits and likely be the final hammer on the 2014 season.
Chase Headley is heating up and with his trade value low may just end up staying with the team and hitting the market as a free agent. Will he be motivated and is a repeat of his strong 2012 second half in the cards? Will Venable anyone? If Joaquin Benoit and/or Huston Street are traded, can the young power arms in the bullpen step up and continue to close games out?
A big week ahead in determining just who and how much dismantling of this team will happen in the next 3 weeks until the July 31st trade deadline.
Player to Watch:
Tyson Ross: Fresh off the second best, if not, the best pitching performance of the year for the Padres, Ross was selected to the All-Star team and might have his projected Sunday start skipped to be available to pitch in Tuesday’s All Star Game. Or Black may opt to have him pitch twice, limiting his availability for the Midsummer classic. Either way, his starts are turning into must-watch status.
I’m going to optimistic but not crazy on this one and predict the Padres do get 2 of 3 from Colorado but 3 of 4 from the Dodgers to finish the week 5-2 and hover around 7 games back in the division at the break.