The San Diego Padres are in Philadelphia and ready to take on the Phillies in a three-game set.
The straw that stirs the Padres’ “drink,” did not board the plane for Philadelphia. Fernando Tatis Jr.injured his back on a swing and ended up on the IL for the second time this season. As anyone who has ever had a back injury knows, these can be tricky and can also adversely affect the rest of one’s body. Tatis Jr. leads the team in BA at .317 and OBP (a glaring team weakness for years) at .379.
In the good news department, the Padres (56-64), behind starter Cal Quantrill, did manage to take the last game of the series and avoid being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays (71-51). Padres players, minus Tatis Jr., could at least celebrate a win against the second-place team in the highly competitive American League East.
Luis Urias, who has been manning second, took over at shortstop. He may not be Tatis Jr., but he should be able to bridge the gap on the field in the meantime. Urias has also started to improve at the plate.
Although the Padres started strong this season, they lost their mojo after the All-Star break. The team has won only one series (against the Colorado Rockies) since the break. Although San Diego resides firmly in fourth place in the NLW, team officials still express confidence that the Padres can turn the season around and actually take that last Wild Card spot in the National League. The team would have to climb over seven clubs, including Philadelphia, in the remaining month and a half of the season to achieve that feat.
The Phillies (63-58) currently rank third in the National League East, nine games behind the Atlanta Braves and six behind the Washington Nationals. Philadelphia has a losing record on the road but fares much better at home (36-26). Citizens Bank Park has been called a bandbox, so balls should be flying out of the park, especially in the steamy summer weather. This may be good news for homer-happy batters but not for Padres’ pitchers.
The Phillies will be coming off a high, having swept the Chicago Cubs and moved within one game of the second wild-card spot. In the third game against the Cubs, the Phillies scored a total of six runs in the ninth inning, four of which came on a Bryce Harper walk-off grand slam. The Padres will avoid Philadelphia’s ace Aaron Nola (11-3, 3.56 ERA), who pitched seven innings in an 11-1 victory against Chicago in the second game of that series.
In Paddack’s last start he went 6.0 innings, giving up five hits and three runs, in an 8-5 victory against the Rockies on August 10. That was his longest start since he pitched 7.2 strong innings against the Miami Marlins. For the first two months of the season, Paddack’s ERA hovered at or below 2.00. Since then it has climbed to 3.26. In his only start against the Phillies, he managed only 4.1 innings, giving up eight hits (two home runs) and six runs (five earned). Collectively the Phillies have a .308/.308/.654/.962 batting line against Paddack.
Velasquez, who began his career with the Houston Astros, has pitched 83.2 innings this season. Like many Padres’ starters, he’s failed to go deep in games. However, in a start in early August against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he managed seven innings and gave up only two runs. In June, Velasquez pitched in relief against San Diego and struck out two batters.
In his return after Tommy John surgery, Lamet’s greatest weakness has been his lack of control. In seven starts (35 innings), he’s struck out 49 batters but also walked 16. In his last appearance, a 3-8 loss to the Rockies, Lamet pitched 5.0 innings, giving up three hits, three walks, and two runs. In 16 total at-bats against Lamet, the Phillies have a cumulative .125 BA.
The Phillies moved Eflin to the bullpen after his ERA ballooned to 12.64 in July. But the loss of Jake Arrieta to a bone spur in his elbow has given Eflin an opportunity to redeem himself. He last pitched one inning in a 1-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Albeit in limited at-bats, Austin Hedges and Eric Hosmer have hit well against Eflin.
Since the All-Star break, Lucchesi has gone the way of his team, having lost all six of his starts. Perhaps part of the problem rests in the drop in his fastball velocity. Instead of his usual low nineties in velocity, he’s averaged 88.8 mph. On August 12 he faced the Rays and pitched 4.2 innings, giving up five hits, three walks, and three runs. His pitch count had ballooned to 94 by the time he was removed from the game.
The Phillies picked up Jason Vargas from the New York Mets before the trade deadline, and since then he’s 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA. However, he has eaten innings, pitching at least six in two outings. In the Phillies’ series against the Cubs Vargas gave up only five hits and two runs in six innings. Sunday would be an excellent time to give Ian Kinsler, who has been relegated to the bench, a start. He has batted .373/.408/.642/1.050 in 67 at-bats against Vargas.
Players to Watch
After a slow start and trip back to the minors, Urias has improved dramatically at the plate. So far in August, he has a .487 OBP and .355 AVG. But his ability to play more than one position will make him even more valuable now that Tatis Jr. has gone down with an injury.
Thanks to J.T. Realmuto the Phillies have no catcher conundrum, but the Padres find themselves embroiled in just that. Should arguably the best defensive catcher in baseball who has led all position players in Defensive Runs Saved get the majority of starts or should the defensively challenged catcher who can flat hit take over that role? Unfortunately, the Padres can’t clone the two and create the perfect backstop.
In the offseason, the owner of the Phillies, John Middleton, told Bob Nightengale of USA Today he might get “a little bit stupid” with expenditures. Then the team went out and nabbed the 2015 NL MVP with an offer of $330 million over 13 years. Harper has rewarded the team, hitting .253/.374/.490/.864 with 25 home runs and 87 RBI. Before signing Manny Machado, the Padres also explored a deal with Harper.
In the offseason, the Padres also explored a trade for J.T. Realmuto, then with the Miami Marlins. But the Phillies nabbed the 27-year-old Realmuto, who has become that rare combination, a two-way catcher. He has always been able to hit (.276/.329/.471/.800), but he’s also improved behind the plate, especially in pitch framing. He’s also the speediest of all catchers.