The San Diego Padres head to Chicago to start a nine-game road trip. The Cubs are simply on fire to start the season and the Padres will have a tough task in trying to earn a single victory in this series. The Padres have been playing much better recently and this series will dictate exactly how well the team has progressed.
When it comes to depth in the lineup, the Cubs certainly have it. Even after losing young outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber to a devastating knee injury, the Cubs still have plenty of young hitters in their lineup. Padres pitchers will have to be on their game in order to successfully pitch to this staff.
The Cubs have won seven straight and are now 24-6 on the season with the best record in all of baseball. Manager Joe Maddon has the club loose and ready to play every night and this club has the makings of something special. 18 games above .500 in their first 30 games of the season is a ridiculous pace. They surely cannot keep up this pace in which they would win 130 plus games in the season.
The best thing the Padres have going for them is that their starting three in this series are pitchers the Cubs have never really seen. Cesar Vargas is making his fourth start of his career and not one Cubs player has any idea of the movement he gets on the ball. Colin Rea has also not been seen by any of the Cubs with the exception of Jason Heyward who got one at bat against the right handed pitcher last year when Heyward was a Cardinal.
Drew Pomeranz brings the most familiarity to the Cubs out of the three starters this week. Anthony Rizzo is 0-5 with one strike out against the lefty. Heyward is 1-1 and Dexter Fowler is 1-2. That is it. No other Cubs player has seen Pomeranz, so this will be an interesting series for the two teams in that regard.
The Cubs starters have all done well against the majority of the Padres hitters statistically so the three games could be low scoring affairs. Of course the wind could always be blowing out at Wrigley and a slug-fest could break out during any of these three games. All three are night games so the ball shouldn’t be carrying too much.
Players to watch
The University of San Diego product is establishing himself as one of the best hitters in the game. The Cubs have been using Bryant in left-field from time to time, so do not be surprised to see him out there. He is young enough and easily has the speed and the athleticism to do it. Bryant is hitting .299 on the season so far with five home runs and 20 RBI
The star has arrived in San Diego as Myers looks poised to be a very good player for a long time. No injury issues have surfaced (knock on wood) and Myers looks like he is going to be a really good player. His move to first has been flawless as he has played the position like he has done it his whole life. Myers played an inning of third base on Sunday and that could be an option moving forward for him. Myers is hitting .281 so far with six home runs and 16 RBI this season. He needs to be productive in this series if the Padres hope to take a game or two from the Cubbies.
The whispers about Matt Kemp and a slow start are no longer a “thing”. He has performed well early this year hitting .279 with eight home runs and 23 RBI. He has also played very well defensively and seems to be placed perfectly every time. A lot of credit has to come to Kemp for focusing on his defense and it also does not hurt that Andy Green has implemented so many defensive shifts for the team. He provides the team a legit middle of the order type hitter and the team will lean on him heavily in this tough three-game series. Kemp is 6-28 (.214) lifetime against the three Cubs starting pitchers with 13 K’s. Those numbers are not going to cut it, he needs to improve.
Cubs lineup vs. rookie Cesar Vargas
The Mexican rookie has the ability to change speeds like a veteran pitcher. There have been very few players who have squared the ball against the right hander. He looks poised like an aged veteran and seems like he has pitched in the majors for years on end. With all that being said, you still have to remember he is a rookie and very capable of a meltdown at any point. Manager Andy Green will have a short leash with Vargas, but the young pitcher will still have an advantage until a team sees him a few times. This will be the Cubs first look at the crafty Vargas, and that should bode well for him providing he keeps composed while pitching in historic Wrigley Field.
John Lackey vs. Matt Kemp
Kemp has just gotten dominated by Lackey in his career. Kemp is 3-16 (.188) with nine strike outs against the veteran pitcher. Those numbers are troubling (especially the nine K’s) but Kemp can make the adjustments. He needs to find a solution to this issue and become more productive with his at bats. The Padres need Kemp in this series and just giving away at bats by striking out is demoralizing to the team. Lackey is not a strike out pitcher, Kemp can do better. On a side note Travis Jankowski is 2-3 off Lackey in one start while Melvin Upton Jr. is 3-16 (.188) with nine strikeouts. You could see Jankowski in left vs Lackey on Wednesday.
Kyle Hendricks vs. Padres lineup
The whole Padres team is an amazing 4-46 (.087) with 11 strikeouts against this right handed pitcher. That has to change. The team simply has to do better against a pitcher that is more than hittable. Only Matt Kemp has any sort of success as he is 2-10 (.200) with one home run off Kendricks. The Padres better bring their bats with them on Tuesday and give Colin Rea some run support.