Even with Thursday’s 6-5 loss to the Brewers in Milwaukee, the San Diego Padres have been on a run entering Friday’s game against the host Houston Astros.
They have gone 14-3 over their past 17 games to shoot to the top of the loaded National League West.
But here is where we toss in the asterisk. Ten of those Padres wins came against teams with three of the weaker offenses in the major leagues — Colorado, Seattle and Milwaukee.
Now they face one of the league’s top offenses: Houston. The Astros lead the American League in hits (455) and batting average (.268), are second in on-base percentage (.333) and OPS (.760), and third in runs scored (255).
Yes, the Padres also have a strong offense. The Padres lead the majors in stolen bases (58), rank second in the National League on on-base percentage (.325), fourth in runs scored (237) and third in hits (400).
The Astros and Padres offenses have similar lineups packed with hitters who work the count.
This series, however, could be more about the Padres pitchers. The Padres are in a string of playing 20 games in 20 days and 33 in a span of 34 days. To ease the load on the starters, Padres manager Jayce Tingler has gone to a six-man rotation.
But the fifth and sixth starters not only face innings limits, they work back-to-back — putting a burden on the bullpen. And the Padres bullpen worked 5 2/3 innings Thursday and 19 1/3 innings over the past four days.
Friday’s starter Dinelson Lamet has not worked more than three innings in any of his five outings this season.
“We’re going to have add some pitching,” Tingler said Thursday hours after all three of his long relievers — Miguel Diaz, Craig Stammen and Nabil Crismatt — appeared in the same game.
Friday’s game matches two natives of the Dominican Republic — Lamet (1-0, 1.64 ERA) and Framber Valdez of the Astros (making his first start of 2021) — looking to revisit the results of 2020.
Lamet finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting for 2020. Valdez was 11th.
The 28-year-old Lamet went 3-1 in 12 starts last season with a 2.09 ERA, a 0.855 WHIP and a .161 opponents covering 69 innings. He’s never pitched against the Astros.
Valdez, 27, has never faced the Padres. He was 5-3 last season with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.118 WHIP in 11 games (10 starts).
Lamet has been brought along slowly after suffering an elbow injury that kept him out of the 2020 playoffs. Valdez has been on the disabled list since fracturing the ring finger on his pitching hand March 2. He pitched four scoreless innings for the Astros’ Triple-A Sugar Land team on Sunday against the Padres’ El Paso team.
“Getting Valdez back will be a big boost for us,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. Valdez is expected to be activated from the injured list before Friday’s game. Meanwhile, Padres catcher Austin Nola (knee strain) will join center fielder Trent Grisham (bruised heel) on the injured list Friday.
–Field Level Media