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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Padres Series Preview

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After sweeping the N.L. East-leading Nationals and dumping them into second place, the Cubs welcome the N.L. West's last-place team to Wrigley Field.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Weather is going to be an issue for all three games in this series, as thunderstorms are in the forecast for all three days. The Cubs are off Thursday, but the Padres aren't, and other makeup dates don't really work, so they'll likely do their best to get these games in.

Roy Thomasson of our SB Nation Padres site Gaslamp Ball provides a few facts about his team entering this set.

The 2016 Padres have a much different look and feel from 2015's troubled squad. The righty/lefty balance in the lineup, rotation, and bullpen are complimented by additions to OBP and defense to form a roster that might not have the power and flash of last year's team, but could gel to become a successful team.

Pitching

Projected starters in this series: Cesar Vargas, Colin Rea. Rea made the leap from Single-A all the way into the Padres rotation in 2015 and is off to a good start in 2016. His fastball is up to the mid-90s this year, but it's his control that makes him effective. Drew Pomeranz was slated for the bullpen through spring, but injuries have afforded him a spot in the rotation, and he's making the best of it. The lefty combines a mid-90s fastball with a healthy dose of devastating curveballs. Vargas is a rookie ground-ball pitcher who's had four good starts so far.  The bullpen started off rough, but has rounded into form. Ex-Cubs Fernando Rodney and Carlos Villanueva are the recognizable veterans, but Ryan Buchter and Brad Hand have emerged as strikeout machines to complement returning players Brandon Maurer and Kevin Quackenbush.   

Offense 

The front end of the lineup has become the driving force of the offense. Jon Jay is an on-base machine. Wil Myers looks like his former Rookie of the Year self. Matt Kemp is healthy and bringing power. Melvin Upton Jr. is reminding us of that guy BJ Upton who used to play for the Rays. From there the lineup falls off, but there's slumping talent due for a resurgence in Derek Norris and Brett Wallace, plus starters Yangervis Solarte and Cory Spangenberg, who are due back from the DL any day now. Wallace is particularly effective as a pinch hitter, and speedy Travis Jankowski has gotten a lot of use as a pinch runner this season.  

Defense  

New shortstop Alexei Ramirez has brought a new sense of stability up the middle for the Padres defense. Glove-first utility players Adam Rosales and Jemile Weeks have been slick at 2B and 3B, and newly converted first baseman Wil Myers is already looking like a plus defender despite his lack of experience. Melvin Upton's looking like a Gold Glove candidate in left field, Jon Jay is holding down the fort in center, and Matt Kemp has shown significant improvements in right.  Overall this is a much improved defense versus last year's crew. Oh, and catchers Derek Norris and Christian Bethancourt have cannons for arms, so baserunners had better beware.

Fun fact

Not much fun, but a fact anyway: The Cubs have not won the season series from the Padres since 2008, when they won five of seven. Since then the Cubs are 22-27 against San Diego, including going 12-11 at Wrigley Field. I'm thinking this "not winning the season series vs. SD" thing stops this year.

Pitching matchups

Monday: Jon Lester (3-1, 1.58 ERA, 1.050 WHIP, 3.15 FIP) vs. Cesar Vargas (0-1, 1.10 ERA, 1.347 WHIP, 4.24 FIP)

Tuesday: Kyle Hendricks (2-2, 3.10 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 2.66 FIP) vs. Colin Rea (3-1, 3.82 ERA, 1.330 WHIP, 4.46 FIP)

Wednesday: John Lackey (4-1, 4.02 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 3.20 FIP) vs. Drew Pomeranz (3-3, 2.12 ERA, 1.088 WHIP, 2.84 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Monday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Tuesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, WPWR

Wednesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Prediction

The Padres' starting pitcher ERAs look good, but when you delve into the WHIPs and FIPs, you can see why they're not winning as much as they might. The Padres are tied for fifth-worst in the league with 121 walks. A patient team like the Cubs should be licking their chops at a pitching staff like this one. I hesitate to predict sweeps, and usually don't. But the Cubs have swept two straight series... so anything's possible. I'll stick with two out of three here, though.

Up next

The Cubs are off Thursday before the Pirates come to Wrigley Field for a three-game series beginning Friday afternoon.