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Series #24: Athletics at Padres - Let’s Play Two

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MLB: San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Padres’ Current Record:

34-40, last place in a tight NL West division. They are one game behind the Rockies, 1.5 behind San Francisco, and just seven games out of first overall. San Diego has most recently dropped three of four games in Atlanta.

Possible Lineup:

Travis Jankowski - LF

Eric Hosmer - 1B

Jose Pirela - 2B

Hunter Renfroe - RF

Christian Villanueva - 3B

Freddy Galvis - SS

Manuel Margot - CF

A.J. Ellis - C

Pitcher’s Spot

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Eric Lauer - LHP

Tyson Ross - RHP

Recent Bullpen Usage:

After churning through most of their arms on Sunday, the Padres had an off day on Monday to allow those arms to recover, and everyone should be available for the short, two game series.

Hottest Hitter(s):

It is usually a sign that things aren’t going so well offensively when A.J. Ellis is the best overall offensive player on a team through nearly three months of the season, but to his credit Ellis has maintained a .411 OBP while splitting starting catching duties. Manuel Margot has a .300 batting average during his last twenty three games, and has nine walks to just fourteen strikeouts in that same time span.

Coldest Hitter(s):

As a team, the Padres have a .669 OPS, which is third worst in the MLB ahead of the Baltimore Orioles (.668) and the Miami Marlins (.659). Cleanup hitter Christian Villanueva has only four home runs in his last twenty four games and hasn’t provided the thump that the middle of the order needs to produce runs.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

Former A’s project Tyson Ross has rediscovered himself in San Diego for the second time in his career after having a miserable stint in Texas last year. The funky right hander has consistently shown good results all season and currently has a 3.51 ERA in fourteen starts in 2018. The back of the Padres bullpen has been very strong this year, so in the event the Padres do take a lead into the late innings, it is dependably safe. Brad Hand leads the back of the bullpen, and is having a decent year himself, but it has been Kirby Yates, with just three runs allowed in twenty nine games, good for a 0.96 ERA, who has been the star of the bullpen.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

For the season, starter Eric Lauer has an ERA up over six, though in the last month he has looked marginally better. While the back of the bullpen has been rock steady, the front of the bullpen has been a rotating cast of mediocre-to-bad all year long.

Key Injuries:

Both Austin Hedges and Wil Myers going down with injuries leaves the Padres’ already stretched lineup even thinner, but fortunately both players are projected to return later this month, if all goes according to plan. Colin Rea had been a consistent force in the rotation, but he is on the 60-day DL with elbow problems.

* * *

The A’s finally won a series against a division rival, and now get to stay west while still getting out of the division. The catch, of course, is that for the next two games the A’s will have to go without the designated hitter, which either puts the lineup in an unfortunate position by giving it an extra Khris-Davis sized hole when a Matt Chapman hole already exists, or the outfield defense gets strained with Davis’ arm allowing baserunners to run roughshod around the bases. This series also gives the A’s two starters a chance to redeem themselves after starting their delayed seasons strong before getting positively lit up by the Houston Astros last week.

It probably wouldn’t be wise for the Padres to think about contention given the state of their starting lineup and rebuild, but with no teams in the NL West separating themselves from the pack, the Padres are twice as close to first place as the A’s are. With good starting pitching and a great bullpen, and a ballpark designed to kill home runs dead, this will assuredly still be a very challenging series for Oakland to win.

Game #73: Tuesday, June 19th, 7:10 - NBCSCA, FSSD, Fox Deportes San Diego

Paul Blackburn vs Eric Lauer

While lacking a wow factor, Blackburn had been consistently great with the A’s by using his superb location ability to limit hard contact. In his last start, all that evaporated against a red-hot Houston team, and Blackburn will have a chance to get back on track against a weaker lineup. Eric Lauer had a rocky start to his big league career, but is increasingly showing signs that he is settling in.

Game #74: Wednesday, June 20th, 12:40 - FSSD, Fox Deportes San Diego, MLB Network

Frankie Montas vs Tyson Ross

Like Blackburn, Montas’ unbelievably strong start to the year hit a major bump in the road against Houston. Montas still isn’t striking enough batters out, which is strange given his profile as a pitcher, but Montas is also limiting walks better than he ever has before and doing enough to limit hard contact to succeed nevertheless. Tyson Ross frustrated the A’s fanbase as a reliever, and occasional starter, for years in Oakland before getting traded and righting his ship. Given his success this year, there is a decent chance he is traded before the July 31st deadline.