As the month of August continues, so too does the MLB schedule. After having two off days in the last four days, the San Diego Padres are back at it again tonight for a weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Padres come into this series having just split a two game set against the Twins, and before that, they played these very same Pirates, taking two of three. There are a multitude of reasons to tune in for each one of these games, so let’s get to it.
Friday: Travis Wood LHP (2-3, 6.42 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (10-8, 3.75 ERA)
After posting a strong Padres debut a week ago, Wood is back out on the mound tonight against the same Pirates team he really dominated. He went six innings, allowing only two hits and two earned runs, while striking out seven. Honestly, his only mistake came in the 3rd inning, when Andrew McCutchen took him into the second deck for a two run homer. Other than that, I liked what I saw out of Wood, and I believe that he can repeat his success tonight and anchor this Padres rotation for the rest of the year.
On the other side of things, Ivan Nova has been putting up a strong season for Pittsburgh, winning ten games and owning a solid 1.18 WHIP over 136.2 IP. Nova was hit hard by the Padres last saturday, getting tagged for four runs on eight hits over only five innings pitched. Despite Nova’s solid numbers on the surface, he struggled to get through July, totaling a 6.28 ERA. However, he’s at his best when at home, as he has a 2.83 ERA over nine starts (7-2 in such starts).
Saturday: Dinelson Lamet RHP (5-4, 5.62 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (9-7, 3.97 ERA)
Lamet takes the mound in the second game of the series for the Pads, as he looks to continue his recent success. Over the past two weeks, Lamet is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA, while striking out roughly a batter an inning (13 SO in 12.2 IP). I really like the potential that Lamet has shown this season, as he really looks like he could be the real deal for San Diego, but maybe not in the role he has now. With his mid to high 90s fastball and nasty slider, I see Lamet as someone who has the potential to be a late inning reliever, possibly as a setup man. However, if he can start to showcase his ability to pitch deeper into games (Average of 5.24 IP per start) and work with more control, Lamet can be a solid option to start games for the Padres in the future.
The ace of the Pirates staff, Cole was impressive his last time out, going seven strong innings and allowing only one run, with eight strikeouts. Cole was especially stingy in July, as he went 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA over four starts, while striking out 26 in 26.2 IP. Cole definitely has the ability to continue to throw like this for the rest of the year, but the #1 pick out of UCLA has failed to show consistency in his 2017 campaign. He’s only slightly better at home than he is on the road (3.92 ERA vs. 4.02 ERA), but I think that Cole continues to throw well in this low-scoring affair.
Sunday: Clayton Richard LHP (5-12, 5.40 ERA) vs. Jameson Taillon (6-5, 4.74 ERA)
Richard gets the ball for the Padres in the series finale, and while doing so, he will hope to stop a dreadful July spell, going 0-4 with an 8.87 ERA over four starts. At this point in the season, Richard is seen simply as someone to eat innings for the rest of the year, but hopefully he’ll be able to piece together a Quality Start here and there. One of the main problems that Richard has is his ability to pitch to teams more than twice through the order. After two times through, his BAA is .313, yet when he begins his 3rd (and sometimes 4th) time through the order, that number skyrockets to .385. At this point in his career, Richard isn’t good enough to use his stuff to beat guys regularly, which is why he is hit hard. However, he’s still a reliable arm to have, and I think that he gets back on track in the series finale.
Opposing Richard in the final game of the series is Jameson Taillon, the 25 year old whose biggest scare this year came when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Remarkably, he only missed 19 days after having surgery to remove the tumor. After he returned, Taillon had a nice little run of success, but has really hit the wall in his past two starts especially. In the past two weeks, his ERA has been 22.95, totaling only 6.2 innings and 17 earned runs. Whether or not this cold stretch continues will ultimately be up to the San Diego offense, which have been hitting an abysmal .186 over the past seven days.