Series 41 Preview: Cubs at Padres

Cashner

Former Cub Andrew Cashner will take the mound Sunday for the Padres. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The Padres have one of the most highly regarded farm systems in the game, but their big league competitiveness hasn’t come yet. They sit in fourth place in the NL West at 57-70, with a July-August collapse erasing a couple of winning months in May and June. Alarmingly, their pitching staff has really disappointed this year, ranking next to last in NL run prevention. Their lineup hasn’t been able to put things together consistently, either. The team lessened some of PETCO Park’s more extreme fence distances—particularly in right field—though the ballpark still plays to pitchers. The cool marine layer will likely dampen fly balls for the two night games on Friday and Saturday.

HITTING: 3.8 Runs Scored/Game (11th in NL)
The Padres’ infield of Yonder Alonso, Jedd Gyorko, Everth Cabrera and Chase Headley is one of the game’s more promising young foursomes, but none of them has had great success this year. Gyorko brings a great hit tool with some pop, but he hasn’t provided much since missing a month with a groin strain. Cabrera was suspended as part of the Biogenesis investigation. On one corner, Alonso hits for a good average (.279 in two years with the Padres), but he has just 15 home runs in 243 games. On the other, the solid-fielding Headley has disappointed to the tune of a .235/.325/.363 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line a year after breaking out with 31 homers and a .286/.376/.498 line. And many more Padres are missing in action, including catcher Yasmani Grandal (torn knee ligaments), first baseman/outfielder Kyle Blanks (Achilles), center fielder Cameron Maybin (knee) and left fielder Carlos Quentin (sore knee).

PITCHING: 4.5 Runs Allowed/Game (14th in NL)
Friday’s starter, Edinson Volquez is just one example of some big regression in the Padres pitching staff. He has a 5.72 ERA and has lost effectiveness on his biggest weapon, the change-up. This might be tied to some lost fastball velocity. Like the rest of the staff, Volquez strikes out too few and walks too many to succeed, at least on the road. The team’s 4.89 road ERA is nearly a run and a half higher than they post at home. Saturday’s starter Eric Stults, an unheralded journeyman, is having his best season at age 33, but the lefty doesn’t get out of the high 80s with his fastball anymore and is a fairly conventional craftsman (albeit with a big mid-60s curve). He’s shown excellent control this year, and he’ll use his four pitches against batters in any count. Sunday’s starter is a familiar face for Cubs fans: Andrew Cashner. Part of the Anthony Rizzo deal, Cashner has continued to cope with injuries, though he has racked up a career-high 137 innings and 21 starts so far. His power slider still has proved to be a nasty pitch, though he’s not getting many whiffs as a starter. The Padres bullpen wraps up with three reliable arms the team has held onto despite interest from contenders. Closer Huston Street keeps batters in front with atypically below-average velocity for a ninth-inning stopper, while Luke Gregerson and Dale Thayer work with more conventional fastball-slider combos.

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