The San Diego Padres seem to be poised for a major hot streak. Or at least Padres' fans would like to think so. The team has played well of recent, and with the return of Yonder Alonso, the lineup seems to have the balance it was lacking before. Winning seven out of their last 10 games, the team suddenly finds themselves at the .500 mark and only 3.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League West.
At times this season the Padres team has looked downright horrible. The pitching staff has led the league in home runs allowed. They are currently second behind the Milwaukee Brewers staff. Not exactly a stat you want your pitching staff to excel at. The defense has been atrocious at times and the team's offense has been shut out nine times so far this season. Defensive woes were expected, but not the streaky offensive play.
With all that said and done, the team has managed to tread water and find themselves well within striking distance. Most fans knew the team was due for a rebound. The teams offense is still searching for an identity, so at times it can be frustrating to watch as a fan. The offense will pick it up though. Perhaps a trade will create a sense of balance to the team. The Padres figure to be searching for a shortstop to play everyday. A deal could very well be imminent. Padres fans will just have to remain patient.
The Padres pitching staff is very solid from top to bottom. The team ERA of 3.99 is sure to improve. Craig Kimbrel and his inflated ERA is sure to come back down to earth. One would expect a run of scoreless innings from Kimbrel, and that should come at the most opportune moment for the Padres. Kimbrel is the top pitcher, in a Padres bullpen that is very special.
Joaquin Benoit and Brandon Maurer are working the seventh and eighth inning duties for the Padres. Each has been solid, with Maurer in particular taking his game to a whole new level. Maurer is filthy and you can see him becoming very confident out on the mound. If the team has to move Joaquin Benoit for an upgrade, they can be confident that Maurer could fill in as the chief set up man for Kimbrel if needed. Just an option that A.J. Preller is well aware of.
Add Dale Thayer and Kevin Quackenbush to the bullpen and you can see that the Padres are well stocked in the relief pitcher position. Frank Garces has been serviceable as the only left hander in the bullpen. Shawn Kelley has improved his numbers and the team even has Nick Vincent, Cory Mazzoni and Chris Rearick down in AAA ready when needed. Multiple options are available for this Padres team.
The starting staff is what will carry this Padres team to victory. When Brandon Morrow returns, the Padres will have a decision to make with the starting five. Odrisamer Despaigne has pitched well since taking over the fifth spot in the rotation from Morrow. Ian Kennedy had been getting roughed up, but has recently turned the corner and appears to be productive again.
That leaves the big three of James Shields, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Shields has been everything as advertised and has been lights out for the Padres. Cashner has been the victim of low run support and should clearly have a better win/loss record. Tyson Ross has seemed to be improving as the season progresses, and he could be in store for another all-star year for the Friars. The pitching staff is solid, and will be tough to defeat on a nightly basis.
The line-up is starting to come together and that will be the missing component on a potential play-off push. If the Padres can get Matt Kemp to heat up, then the rest of the National League will surely be worried. Kemp has always been a streaky hitter and Padres fans have yet to see the best of the outfielder. His defensive skills have not diminished, contrary to what Dodger fans believe. As Kemp has made a handful of great catches so far this season.
With a productive Kemp and Upton, and a healthy Wil Myers and Yonder Alonso, this team could really be special. You have to think a piece or two is still coming. A.J. Preller has been very active in the trade front and the July 31st deadline approaches. We will see what the team looks like come August 1st. It's a very exciting time for Padres fans.