The Padres return home from their first losing road trip of the season to face the Pittsburgh Pirates. The visitors won only one game of three in Colorado and lost both of a two-game set to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the friendly confines of Petco Park, the Padres will play a team with notable similarities. Both have a better record on the road (Padres 12-10, Pirates 12-10) than at home (Padres 10-11, Pirates 9-9). According to ESPN’s power rankings as of May 13, both teams sit around the middle of the pack with the Padres at 14th (up from 16); the Pirates 16th (up from 18th).
Both teams are missing key players in shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for San Diego and starting pitcher Jameson Taillon for Pittsburgh. Both play in highly competitive divisions. The Pirates (21-19 overall) are in fourth place in the National League Central Division but only four games out, the Padres (22-21) in third six games out in the NLW. Like the Padres, the Pirates run differential lies in negative territory but at -47 dwarfs the Padres -16 DIFF.
In his last outing on May 10 in Colorado, Lauer gave up eight hits and eight runs in only three innings. He has pitched six innings only twice this season in his first and third starts, both victories, both against the San Francisco Giants. First baseman Josh Bell, who is on a roll this year, has had his way with Lauer albeit in only six ABs (.667/.667/.833/1.500).
Trevor Williams has pitched at least six innings in all his starts this year. The 27-year-old has bettered his three-year career stats of 3.68 ERA, 1.25 WHIP so far this year, and he is improving as the season goes on. Most Padres have few if any at-bats against Williams, however, Greg Garcia has faced Williams in 14 times with positive results (.571/.571/.643/.1.214).
Coming off a win against the Rockies in Colorado, Lucchesi has a bit of momentum on his side, especially since he seems more comfortable at home (2.89 ERA in Petco as opposed to 8.10 ERA on the road). He has lasted more than five innings only once (in Colorado in April) and needs to stretch that out to rest the Padres’ weary bullpen. Pirates hitters have few at bats against the lefty, which should benefit Lucchesi.
In Pittsburgh, Jordan Lyles has shown a side of his pitching self the Padres barely glimpsed in his brief stints in San Diego in 2017 and 2018. In 38.2 innings with the Pirates, he’s a different pitcher than his career 5.13 ERA and 1.44 WHIP would suggest. Friday may actually be a good day to start Ian Kinsler as he has the most at-bats against Lyles with 13 and has a slash line of .385/.529/.615/1.145.
Unlike Lucchesi, Nick Margevicius has pitched better on the road (3.32 ERA) than at home (5.03). Margevicius relies on guile and a four-pitch mix (88 mph fastball, slider, curve, and change) rather than high velocity. His worst starts have come against the Rockies, one at home and one in Coors Field. He has never faced the Pirates’ hitters in his young career, which should give him a boost.
Born in La Mesa, 27-year-old Steven Brault has started each of his four seasons competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, but injuries to fellow pitchers have forced him into the rotation this year. In 2018 he had a 6-3 record. Through his career, he’s posted a 5.06 ERA, 1.64 WHIP but has obviously regressed in 2019. Most of the Padres’ hitters will be facing Brault for the first time.
Chris Paddack had his first rough start in Los Angeles Tuesday night in a 3-6 loss to the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw. He lasted only 4.2 innings and gave up five hits including two home runs. For this ace in waiting, the inevitable comeuppance should just fuel his fire. He arrived with a 1.55 ERA, ranking second of starters with at least 40 innings, but gave up six runs before Andy Green pulled him with two outs in the fourth inning. Not lacking in confidence, Paddack will have a chance to bounce back and has an advantage in that none of the Pirates’ hitters have faced him.
In his second year Nick Kingham, 27, has regressed like teammate Steven Brault. In 2018 Kingman started 15 games and had a 5-7 record with 5.21 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. No Padre hitter has more than three at-bats against Kingham. In May he’s pitched four or fewer innings in three starts, all losses, the last a 9-3 drubbing by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He gave up 10 hits and seven runs in just four innings.
Players to Watch
In the past seven days, Manny Machado has nine hits (including three doubles), four RBI and a .474 batting average. With the absence of Fernando Tatis Jr., Machado’s defense in the infield has been crucial. In 93 at-bats against Pirates’ pitching, he has a .301/.343/.419/.763 slash line which may or may not matter depending upon matchups.
After a somewhat down April, Eric Hosmer’s bat has started to wake up. In the past 15 days, he’s hitting .346/.375/.462/.837. In Kenta Maeda’s dominating performance against the Padres Wednesday night in Dodger Stadium, Hosmer had three of the Padres’ four hits.
First baseman Josh Bell has been on an absolute tear and continued his streak Tuesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks with two home runs. He’s on a 15-game hitting streak in which he’s batting .431 with a 1.344 OPS. Against the Padres, Bell has batted in .357/.438/.607/1.045 in 28 plate appearance.