Series Preview: Padres on the Road, First Stop Pittsburgh

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off yet another near miss of a no-hitter (this time, Jordan Lyles reached 7 1/3 innings), the Padres will begin their longest road trip of the season so far. The first stop takes the team to Pittsburgh, then Washington D.C. before a day off and a cross-country trip back to the west coast to play the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

The Pirates (24-17) and Milwaukee Brewers (25-18) top the National League Central with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals just one game behind. Last year, the Pirates ended up in fourth place, 17 games out with a 75-87 record, disappointing fans for a second year after the team made the playoffs three years in a row (2013 to 2015).

While the Padres have gone all in on a rebuild, the Pirates have settled on more of a mini version. In the off-season, Pittsburgh traded popular outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants and starting pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros for prospects (most of whom are major league-ready). Colin Moran (acquired in the Cole trade) plays third and has batted .292/.382/.451 so far.

Game 1- 4:05 PM PDT
Eric Lauer, (1-2, 8.27 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (4-2 4.17 ERA)

Lauer’s fastball velocity has dropped to 89 mph, and he’s had trouble locating his pitches. In his last start, a 9-5 loss to St. Louis Cardinals, he lasted only 2.1 innings and gave up seven hits and six earned runs.

The Padres have only a handful of at-bats against the 25-year-old Kuhl, who is in his second year with the Pirates. In his last outing, Kuhl pitched six innings, giving up three hits and three runs to the San Francisco Giants.

Game 2- (4:05 PDT)
Tyson Ross, (2-3 3.40 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (2-3, 5.01 ERA)

In Ross’ career starts against the Pirates, current players have batted .309/.377/.527. Last Saturday, Ross pitched six innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up only one run on three hits in a 2-1 victory.

At 31, former Yankee Ivan Nova is the senior citizen of the Pirates’ pitching staff. Eric Hosmer (10 at-bats, .400/.455/.900) and Freddy Galvis (11 at-bats .455/.500./818) have faced Nova multiple times and must be salivating at the opportunity to do so again.

Game 3- (4.05 PDT)

Clayton Richard (2-5, 5.20 ERA) vs. TBD

Credit: AP Photo

In his last two starts, Richard pitched eight innings and helped save the bullpen. More importantly, he has made adjustments and appears to be a different pitcher from the one who lasted only four innings against the San Francisco Giants, giving up seven runs on eight hits in a 9-4 loss on May 2.

Game 4- (10:35 PDT)

TBD vs. Trevor Williams (4-2 3.13)

Tuesday, the Padres placed Joey Lucchesi on the 10-day disabled list with a right hip strain, and the team has not announced his replacement for Sunday’s game. Thanks to a day off Wednesday, Jordan Lyles would be on regular rest. However, Robbie Erlin or Bryan Mitchell could come out of the bullpen or Luis Perdomo or Walker Lockett be recalled from the minors

26-year-old Trevor Williams pitched seven scoreless innings in his last start against the hapless Chicago White Sox. Only two Padres, Freddy Galvis and Raffy Lopez, have faced Williams, with two at-bats each (a tiny sample size). Galvis got the only hit against him, a double.

Going into the series, Eric Hosmer leads the Padres in average (.270) and OBP (.369), Jose Pirela in hits (45), Christian Villanueva in home runs (10) and RBI (22).

Corey Dickerson leads the Pirates in average (.317) and RBI (27), Gregory Polanco in homers (8), Francisco Cervelli in OBP (4.15), and Starling Marte in hits (49)

The Pirates have been missing second baseman Josh Harrison with a broken bone in his hand (especially for his value on defense). Both Marte and Cervelli exited Tuesday’s game early due to injury.

The weather forecast calls for showers or thunderstorms for all four games with the highest probability of 80 percent for Saturday’s game.

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