D-backs carry Ray of hope into clash with Padres

D-backs carry Ray of hope into clash with Padres

SAN DIEGO — On Aug. 10, the Arizona Diamondbacks departed Phoenix on a nine-game road trip that was packed for opportunity.

All the games would be played against teams trailing their respective divisions — Cincinnati, Texas and San Diego. But the first two stops didn’t produce the expected results. The Diamondbacks lost two of three in Cincinnati and split a short two-game series against the Rangers.

But they got back on track Thursday night in the first contest of a four-game series at Petco Park, defeating the Padres 5-1 behind Clay Buchholz‘s 10th career complete game.

The Diamondbacks hope to protect — or extend — their 1 1/2-game lead over Colorado in the National League West on Friday when they send Robbie Ray to the mound in a duel of left-handers.

Ray (3-2, 4.83 ERA) will be opposed by Padre rookie Joey Lucchesi (6-6, 3.45).

Arizona’s 4-0 record at Petco Park this season has given it an 8-3 advantage over the Padres with eight games to play — including the final three games of the season in San Diego when Arizona might need wins to advance to the National League playoffs.

Thus far, the Diamondbacks have a better record against the Padres than any of their division rivals. And the ability to beat the Padres could ultimately decide who wins the National League West.

The Padres and Ray are no strangers. Friday night will mark the 11th time that Ray has faced San Diego in his career. He is 4-4 against the Padres with a 4.26 ERA. This will be his second start against the Padres this season. On July 7, Ray started Arizona’s 20-5 victory over the Padres. But he didn’t get credit for the win, leaving after allowing four runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Ray has been at his best in his first eight road starts this season, going 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA and holding opponents to a .199 batting average while striking out 54 in 40 innings.

And Ray has been very effective in his four previous starts at Petco Park, going 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA.

On the season, Ray has pitched 76 1/3 innings in 15 starts — allowing 42 runs (41 earned) on 70 hits and 39 walks with 101 strikeouts for a .246 opponents’ batting average and a 1.43 WHIP. But he has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his last four starts.

The Padres have won three of the four games the 25-year-old Lucchesi has started since he returned from Triple-A El Paso on July 23 — a move that was made to slow his accumulation of innings. Lucchesi worked six shutout innings in his most recent start against Philadelphia on Sunday, holding the Phillies to two hits and three walks.

Over his last eight starts, Lucchesi has a 2.95 ERA with a 3-3 record, and the Padres went 4-4 in those games. The Padres have gone 8-10 when Lucchesi starts this season.

Lucchesi has started three games against Arizona this season, going 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in those games.

Padres notes: Villanueva going to second; Myers rests; Margot drops

Padres notes: Villanueva going to second; Myers rests; Margot drops

As the Padres continue to search for way to get everyone playing time — this season and next — another positional debut is almost certainly coming Friday night.

With Wil Myers getting Thursday’s series opener against the Diamondbacks off, Christian Villanueva was back in his usual place at third base.

He will likely start at second base on Friday.

“You’re looking for options as we go forward into next year to provide depth in multiple positions should we run into injuries or problems – to (be to turn to) guys we feel confident being every day guys if they need to be,” manager Andy Green said. “You’re also looking for guys who can be real utility guys for you going forward. The only way you’re going to find out that utility is if you let them bounce around.”

Villanueva has filled in late in four games (10 innings) at shortstop this season and will likely see more time there. (The complication there is Freddy Galvis has started every game the past two seasons.)

“We’ll find a way to work toward that as September unfolds,” Green said.

Myers’ reset

Myers is expected back at third Friday after playing three straight games there, plus the extra infield practice he has been taking each day as he learns his newest position.

“He’s probably fine to have played today and keep moving forward,” Green said. “It’s probably a good time for a reset day, especially as he searches for timing in the batter’s box.”

Myers, who was hitting .273/.317/.517 when he suffered a bone bruise in his left foot via a foul ball on Aug. 2, has just a bunt single in 13 at-bats since coming off the disabled list on Monday.

Manny’s move

Manuel Margot, riding a stretch in which he has gone from the team’s hottest hitter over a nearly two-month period to 1-for-19 over his past seven games, is batting eighth for the first time since June 8.

“It’s where he’s been offensively,” Green said. “I think he’s found a home down there at the bottom of the order. He’s shown a lot of patience at times. That’s what we want to get him back to. We want to get him back to seeing pitches, attacking the pitches he should swing at. When he’s done that this year, he’s been through really good stretches. Sometimes making that move in the order lets a guy know ‘The guy you were when you were down there, that’s who we’re looking for.’ ”

Margot is seeing 3.73 pitches per plate appearance and walking once every 8.7 plate appearances when batting seventh or eighth versus 3.64 pitches and walking once every 27.1 plate appearances when batting first or second.

Margot began the season as the Padres’ leadoff hitter but was hitting .169/.219/.270 on May 6 and was semi-permanently dropped to the bottom of the order, hitting primarily seventh and eighth through June.

By June 24, he had raised his batting average to .250 on his on-base percentage to .310, and he hit lead-off in that day’s game for the first time since May 14. He hit first or second in 26 of his next 33 games, including 13 straight before batting seventh on Tuesday. He was off Wednesday.

For the season, Margot has a .184/.216/.296 line when batting first or second and a .318/.389/.473 line when batting seventh or eighth.

Extra bases

  • Eric Lauer, on the DL since July 31 with a forearm strain, is expected to make a rehab start Saturday with a possible return to the starting rotation next week.
  • Cory Spangenberg is starting for the 10th time in the past 14 games and for the 12th time at second base. He walked twice and homered Wednesday and is hitting .406/.513/.688 in August, which leads the team in all three categories in that span (13 games).
  • Hunter Renfroe is not starting for the first time in 14 games this month. Renfroe is 4-for-23 in six games on this homestand after going 11-for-29 with four homers and two doubles in the seven-game road trip that started August.

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Padres 3, Angels 6: Things get a little weird before Pads lose in extras

Padres 3, Angels 6: Things get a little weird before Pads lose in extras

Well, the awaited Padres debut of Wil Myers at third base has come and gone. It’s nearly mid-August and time to get weird with things. With Myers at third, Christian Villanueva at first, and the Angels in town – the Friars tried to put something together to keep the positivity of their series against the Phillies going.

Clayton Richard totally delivered, going a full 8 innings giving up merely 4 hits and 2 runs, one on a homer in the first and another on a very wild pitch in the third. The Angels were kept to those two runs by Richard and Kirby Yates’ relief.

Craig Stammen would end up blowing things with the game tied 2-2 in the 10th, giving up an RBI-single, a safety squeeze, and then a two-run HR to Justin Upton (who would also end up robbing a Hosmer homer as well.) Earlier in the inning, Shohei Ohtani made an anticipated appearance and was thrown two balls, swung on a strike, then given two more balls for a walk.

The Padres had stayed neck-and-neck with the Trout-less Angels, with Freddy Galvis going yard for his 9th homer of the season and Eric Hosmer bringing home a run on a sac fly. Hosmer would score himself after cranking a homer to center field, putting the Pads at 6-3 before the Angels shut the door.

With that promise of keeping things a bit weirder, Myers’ debut at third kicked off with an unbelievable start: an immediate caught line drive, a chopping ground ball, and a chopping dribbler. Both ground balls required a charge from Myers, both were fielded cleanly, and the throw was well in time.

Myers ended the night with not three but eight infield assists, one short of a team record, and on his very first night as a Padres third baseman. Wil is entering enigma territory.

Over at first base to catch Myers’ stellar fielding was Christian Villanueva, who seemed to fill the position just fine. He slotted over to third after Myers exited the game and found himself in a weird position on a bunt that had Austin Hedges gunning down a runner at third in a non-force play. Villanueva ducked and Matrix’ed to the ground to allow Hedges to connect with Galvis to make the out.

With some more great outfield defense from Manuel Margot it’s hard to say the Pads aren’t at least occasionally giving a few entertaining morsels to watch as we approach the heart of August baseball.

Brett Kennedy will take a crack at the Halos tomorrow against Jaime Barria.

Padres aim to maintain August momentum vs. Angels

Padres aim to maintain August momentum vs. Angels

The San Diego Padres are on a bit of a roll.

Well, look at it this way: They won five games in July, and they’ve already won six times in August.

And it’s just not the number of wins they have, it is who they have beaten.

— They split a four-game series at Wrigley Field against the National League Central-leading Chicago Cubs.

— The Padres then took a bus ride to Milwaukee and won two of three from the Brewers, who are contending in the NL Central.

— The Padres returned home and took two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies, who came to San Diego in sole possession of first place in the NL East, but that’s no longer the case.

Now the Padres welcome their closest neighbors to San Diego. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim come to Petco Park for a three-game series starting Monday night with an unusual pitching matchup of left-handers.

Clayton Richard (7-10, 5.13 ERA) will be starting for the Padres against the Angels’ Andrew Heaney (7-7, 3.96 ERA).

Richard is the 34-year-old veteran of a Padres rotation that currently includes three rookies among its five members. It was a six-man rotation with four rookies until Walker Lockett was optioned back to Triple-A El Paso on Sunday after a third bad start.

What makes the Richard start interesting is that the Angels are the only team he has yet to face in his career. He is not new to interleague play. He has a 9-6 record with a 3.70 ERA in interleague action with 24 career appearances (19 starts).

But he has never faced the Angels, even during the first two seasons of his career back in 2008-2009, when he was launching his career in the American League with the Chicago White Sox.

Richard has struggled of late. He is 0-4 (and the Padres are 2-4) in his last six starts with a 7.50 ERA. Four of those starts have come on the road, where the 6-foot-5, 235-pounder is 5-7 in 14 starts with a 6.28 ERA. At Petco Park, Richard is 2-3 in 10 starts with a 3.76 ERA.

Don’t be surprised by Richard’s size. He is not a power pitcher. He thrives when he is down in the zone getting ground balls. He depends on his infield defense, which hasn’t always been dependable this season.

Heaney has a different set of problems. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound 27-year-old has been a much different pitcher at home than he has been on the road.

When pitching at home, Heaney is 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts. Opposing hitters are batting only .212 against Heaney when he is pitching in Anaheim.

On the road, it’s a totally different scenario. He is 0-5 with a 5.30 ERA in 10 starts. Opposing hitters are batting .267.

Another problem Heaney could have Monday night is that some of the Padres’ hottest hitters — outfielders Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes and Manuel Margot and catcher Austin Hedges — are right-handed hitters who are at their best against left-handed pitchers.

Padres fans were looking forward to seeing Mike Trout, but the Angels All-Star can’t come off the disabled list until the team leaves San Diego. Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons is also day to day. But the Angels still have Albert Pujols.

As for the Padres, outfielder Wil Myers is eligible to return from the disabled list on Monday, possibly as a third baseman.

Phillies point to postseason, Padres point to future

Phillies point to postseason, Padres point to future

SAN DIEGO — The San Padres and Philadelphia Phillies meet Sunday afternoon in the rubber match of a three-game series at Petco Park.

But the result of one game is much more meaningful to the Phillies than the Padres.

Philadelphia regained the lead – by a game over Atlanta — in the National League East Saturday night with a 5-1 victory over the Padres.

Meanwhile, the Padres, who are rebuilding for 2020 or 2021, will look at a rookie pitcher for the third straight game.

But the pitcher opposing Jake Arrieta is no longer a rookie’s rookie.

Left-hander Joey Lucchesi will be making his 18th start for the Padres. He has a 5-6 record and a 3.70 earned run average. The right-handed Arrieta, meanwhile, is 9-6 with a 3.11 ERA going into his 23rd start.

Arrieta, of course is one of the league’s premier pitchers. He ranks eighth in the National League with a 3.11 ERA and 10th with a 3.20 road ERA and third with a 2.52 night time ERA — although that doesn’t figure to factor in Sunday under the bright Southern California sun.

Arrieta has allowed 61 runs this season, only 44 of which have been earned on 113 hits and 40 walks with 91 strikeouts – for a .242 opponents’ batting average and a 1.20 WHIP.

But Lucchesi, who features a funky delivery and an “out pitch” he calls a “churve” doesn’t have numbers far different than Arrieta. Opposing hitters are batting .243 against Lucchesi. And he has allowed 38 runs (34 earned) on 76 hits and 28 walks with 87 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings – for a 1.26 WHIP.

The one thing Lucchesi hasn’t done thus far is face the Phillies. He was still with Triple-A El Paso coming out of the All-Star break — in a move made by the Padres to limit his innings – when they were in Philadelphia.

In three starts since returning, Lucchesi has allowed 10 runs on 19 hits and three walks with 21 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings — a 5.87 ERA as his overall ERA has jumped up a third of a run. He has also given up four home runs since returning to give him a total of 14 homers allowed during his first major league campaign.

Arrieta will be making his sixth career start against the Padres and his second this season. Overall, Arrieta is 2-1 against the Padres with a 3.76 ERA – allowing 13 runs (11 earned) on 22 hits and 12 walks with 22 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. But in his lone start against the Padres this season, Arrieta lasted only 3 1/3 innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on six hits and three walks.

The Phillies took two of three from the Padres in Philadelphia and need a win Sunday to claim the season series. The Padres, of course, would be more than happy to win this series and split the season series.

San Diego is 1-1 at home after coming off one of their most successful road trips of the season — a 4-3 tour of Milwaukee and the Chicago Cubs.