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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Padres Series Preview

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After being swept in Arizona, the Cubs return to Wrigley Field for a 10-game homestand starting with their final three games of the year against the San Diego Padres.

Pitch to anyone you want. Except that Seth Smith guy on the right.
Pitch to anyone you want. Except that Seth Smith guy on the right.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that didn't really go according to plan. I know the Cubs have a hard time playing at Chase Field but.. getting swept? Looking back at the poll before the series started, out of 141 votes, only five people voted for zero wins. So whoever you five people are, you get a BCB point. And you get the scorn of the other 136 voters for jinxing the Cubs, because it's totally your fault. (/sarcasm)

Anyway, with 65 games left to play, 39 of those games will be at Wrigley Field, and those 39 games begin with a 10-game homestand that starts with three games against the San Diego Padres. The Cubs come into the series with a record of 40-57 and are surprisingly still not in the cellar in the National League as the Colorado Rockies have matched the Cubs' losing streak step for step. The Padres currently own a 43-55 record and have a two-game winning streak after taking the final two games of their short homestand against the New York Mets. The Cubs and Padres split a four-game series at San Diego in late May and also split a four-game set at Wrigley last year.

LIKELY PITCHING MATCHUPS:

Tuesday: Eric Stults (3-11, 4.98 ERA, 1.440 WHIP) vs. Kyle Hendricks (0-0, 6.00 ERA, 1.333 WHIP)
Wednesday: Ian Kennedy (7-9, 3.62 ERA, 1.214 WHIP) vs. Tsuyoshi Wada (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.200 WHIP)
Thursday: Tyson Ross (8-10, 2.70 ERA, 1.171 WHIP) vs. Edwin Jackson (5-10, 5.61 ERA, 1.563 WHIP)

This will be the second time that the Cubs will be facing Stults and Kennedy this season; they won the first matchup against Stults by a score of 5-1 and lost the matchup against Kennedy, 4-3.

The big news for the Padres bullpen is that Huston Street (1.09 ERA, 0.758 WHIP) is no longer a part of it, having been traded to the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend. The closing duties have fallen to Joaquin Benoit, who has been doing very well himself this season (1.99 ERA, 0.836 WHIP), with Kevin Quackenbush (2.57 ERA, 0.857 WHIP) providing the set-up work.

THE OFFENSE:

It's been the Achilles heel for the Padres all season, and their offense can still be summed up in one name:

  • Seth Smith, LF, .893

The rest of the offense for the Padres is... well, it's still brutal. The only other players that they currently have with an OPS over .700 are Chris Nelson (.855), who has 11 plate appearances, and Jake Goebbert (.738), who has 46. The Padres are still scoring a woeful 2.97 runs per game, which over the course of a full season would translate to 481 runs. By comparison, there have been five teams in the history of baseball that have scored fewer than 480 runs over a full 162-game season, with the lowest being 463 by the 1968 White Sox. If you're squeamish, you may want to cover your eyes before you look at those stats.

The list on the Cubs' side (with last two weeks in parentheses):

  • Anthony Rizzo, .907 (1.178)
  • Chris Coghlan, .839 (1.276)
  • Justin Ruggiano, .792 (.593)
  • Starlin Castro, .760 (.463)

It was a good run for Luis Valbuena, but he has finally been forced to hand in his membership card after a 1-for-8 performance against Arizona. His OPS now sits at .739, the lowest it has been since May 13. Arismendy Alcantara does have an .859 OPS at the moment; however, with only 38 plate appearances so far and the looming possibility of a return to Iowa, it's still a bit early to make him an official member of the club. Consider him to currently be driving with his learner's permit, if you will. (I know. Baseball isn't Drivers' Ed.)

GAME PROJECTIONS:

Game 1: I hate to say it, but this could potentially be the only winnable game of the series for the Cubs. To make matters worse, the past four starts for Stults have all been decent, allowing three runs or less in all four including seven innings of shutout ball against San Francisco on June 28. Hendricks' major-league debut went pretty well once he got past the first inning, allowing only two hits over the next five. He hasn't pitched since that start on July 10, so it'll be interesting to see if there's any rust to be shaken off.

Game 2: Kennedy has been up and down since his last start against the Cubs. He has allowed four runs or more in four starts since then, including four in his last start on July 18 against the Mets. That start was preceded by three in which he allowed a total of two runs, so it's hard to tell exactly which Kennedy will show up. Wada's first start went pretty well, surviving a shaky fifth inning but ending up with a no-decision when the bullpen collapsed. He has made two starts for Iowa since then, winning his last one against Round Rock in which he allowed three hits and struck out 10 over six innings of work.

Game 3: Ross hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of his last five starts, including a three-hit shutout of the Reds on July 2. That's probably all that you need to know about this game.

RUSS' PREDICTION: I've gone back and forth on this prediction, and I'm probably going to be wrong, but I'll slurp some Kool-Aid and go with 2-1. It's going to depend on good starts for Hendricks and Wada and the appeareance of Bad Kennedy as well. I've already given up Game 3 for dead.

NEXT STOP: The homestand continues as the Cubs return to division play with a three-game set against the St. Louis Cardinals. Will Hendricks pitch well enough to earn a third start?  Stay tuned.