San Diego Padres (47-75) at Florida Marlins (66-55

While catching the Braves is unlikely, the Marlins are only a ½ game out of the wildcard race. Manager Bruce Bochy is reluctant to use the word "spoiler", but that is exactly what the Padres hope to do down the stretch.

Game One

LHP Oliver Perez (4-5, 5.05) and RHP Brad Penny (10-9, 4.18)

Oliver Perez showed both flashes of brilliance and mediocrity in his last start. 11 Ks, 1 BB is great, 8 hits in 6 IP is not so great. Perez was falling behind early in counts and then throwing "hit me" pitches to avoid working deeper in the hole. Instead of taking those pitches, the Reds were hitting them. More than anybody else on the staff, Ollie needs to get ahead. When he falls behind he loses the aggression that gives him an edge.

Brad Penny must be some sort of vampire, because he definitely does not like pitching during the day. He is 0-6 with a 7.55 ERA in day games. The bad news Padres' fans is that this is a 7:35 pm EDT start and Penny posts a 10-3 record with a 2.99 ERA under the lights.

Game Two

RHP Brian Lawrence (6-14, 4.55) and LHP Dontrelle Willis (11-3, 3.03)

BLaw's slider is officially back. It was missing all of July, but for two consecutive starts the slider was nasty as ever. Lawrence wants them to swing because it is normally going to be a ground ball and he will take his chances.

The Padres saw Dontrelle Willis before he was Dontrelle Willis NL ROY candidate. He got the win that night and although his performance was a bit uneven, he definitely showed glimpses of what made him an All Star selection. Willis did get touched up a bit by the Dodgers his last time out, so no doubt that the Padres hope to face that guy and not the guy that 1 hit the Mets earlier this season.

Game Three

RHP Adam Eaton (7-8, 4.25) and RHP Josh Beckett (5-6 3.48)

Eaton's last outing looks bad on the surface (4 ER in 5 IP) but if you look closer, you see a better outing. He gave up a solo shot to C. Jones in the 4th inning, and with a 5 run lead in the 6th, the wheels kind of fell off. It seemed as though Eaton went into "cruise control" with a big lead, and that is a dangerous thing with the Braves lineup.

Josh Beckett has tremendous stuff and on good days he can dominate the opposition. However, if the Marlins are going to have success, he needs to have these good days on a more consistent basis. Beckett can get into the mid to upper 90s with his heater. If you combine that with his 12 to 6 bender you can almost see the knees buckling.

Hitters to Watch

There were a lot of groans when the Padres gave up LHP prospect Mark Phillips and OF Bubba Trammell for a very expensive Rondell White, especially since he was coming off the worst year of his career. I am sure many people had visions of Ray Lankford dancing in their head. Well, Rondell White has exceeded most expectations. After a tough July, "Rock" is hitting again. In his last 7 games, his average is .520 with a SLG% of .720.

Mike Lowell is having a career year. Lowell was coveted by the Cubs but the Marlins surprisingly took him off the market. Good move. If the Marlins hope to contend, much of it will have to do with the bat of Lowell.

Other Notes

I know I was not the only Padres fan gripping after seeing Sean Burroughs get plunked square in the ankle. Luckily, x-rays were negative and Burroughs is officially day-to-day. If the Marlins get on base, things are going to get ugly. Florida likes to steal and our catchers have difficulty throwing anyone out. Juan Pierre has more stolen bases (56) than our entire team (55). Our catchers have thrown out a paltry 22.7% of base runners this season. Let's put this in perspective, Mike Piazza, the same guy with the notoriously bad arm has thrown out 30% of base runners this season and has thrown 24.7% over his career. We are below the "Piazza-line". That is frightening.

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