Let me begin this post by saying Wednesday was a great day for sports fans in Chicago! The Bulls (who have home court advantage in the first round) take on the six-seed Bucks on Saturday to start their playoff run and the Blackhawks came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Predators in Game 1 of the NHL playoffs.... and oh yeah... Travis Wood stepped up and dominated the Reds and the Cubs took care of business Wednesday night. Now, on to the Padres!
After four straight seasons with a losing record, San Diego's new GM A.J. Preller was fast to make moves this offseason, as the Padres picked up Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, James Shields, Matt Kemp and most recently Craig Kimbrel. The Padres started this season dropping two of three to the Dodgers, but then won three of four from the World Champion Giants. The Padres are one of the most promising teams in the league due to all of their recent transactions and seem to be wanting to make a run this year in the season.
What to know about the Padres:
The Padres should be led by their starting pitchers, primarily the big three of Shields, Andrew Cashner, and Tyron Ross who combined had an ERA of 3.16 last season, and who will all pitch in this series. In the fourth spot of their rotation is Ian Kennedy, who had over 200 strikeouts last year.
San Diego's brand-new outfield of Kemp, Upton and Myers should combine to lead the Padres offense this year. They have done that so far, as the Padres have scored nine runs in the first inning this young season, the second-highest in the National League behind the Braves. But the key to the offense could be in the hands of Norris, who played for the Athletics last year as well as making the AL All-Star team. He wound up playing through a shoulder injury in the second half. He had a batting average of .258 with an on-base percentage of .348.
For the Padres, their season will come down to one question: Can their players stay healthy? Kemp has always been prone to injuries, while it's still a question whether Cashner can get to 33 or 34 starts, something he has yet to do in his big-league career.
Probable Pitching Matchups (2015 stats):
James Shields (1-0, 0.92 WHIP, 2.08 ERA) vs. Jason Hammel (1-0, 1.33 WHIP, 4.50 ERA)
Tyson Ross (1-0, 1.50 WHIP, 4.50 ERA) vs. Kyle Hendricks (0-0, 2.08 WHIP, 10.38 ERA)
Andrew Cashner (0-2, 1.73 WHIP, 4.09 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (0-1, 1.94 WHIP, 7.84 ERA)
The Cubs have one of their toughest pitching matchups yet this year, having to face Shields and Cashner in game one and game three, respectively. If the Cubs' bullpen reminds as strong as it has been, they should have a chance in each of the games due to the so-far solid pitching staff. The offense has been exciting to watch thus far in the season and there is no reason for them to slow down now. I say the Cubs keep the momentum going winning the series 2-1 before an important road trip against the Pirates and Reds.
The Cubs travel to Pittsburgh for a four-game set against the Pirates.