The San Diego Padres are playing good baseball again, and their recent success has catapulted them back into a playoff spot heading into a two-game series against the visiting Los Angeles Angels beginning Tuesday night.
The Padres have won five of their past eight games to overtake the Cincinnati Reds for the second National League wild-card spot.
San Diego (73-64) was two games behind the Reds (73-66) after losing to the Angels on Aug. 28, but the Padres enter play Tuesday with a one-game advantage on Cincinnati.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.
The Padres are coming off two straight wins against the visiting Houston Astros, who lead the American League West. On Sunday, San Diego got a walk-off solo home run from Jake Cronenworth, setting off a joyous celebration following the 4-3 victory.
“We’re a super fun team,” Cronenworth said. “When we’re playing our best, everybody is having a great time, everybody is dancing in the dugout, pulling for each other. That swag thing, having fun. When we’re doing that on a day-to-day basis, everyone is confident. It’s pretty tough to beat this team when we’re going like that.”
The Padres plan to send left-hander Blake Snell to the mound for the series opener.
Snell (7-5, 4.31 ERA) is coming off his best month of the season, as he went 3-1 with a 1.72 ERA in six August starts.
He most recently threw seven no-hit innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 31 in Phoenix. Snell struck out 10 and walked two, causing his pinch count to run up to 107, which kept him from pursuing a no-hitter.
“Do I think he could’ve finished it? Maybe,” Tingler said. “But did we want to get in the 135-140 (pitch) range? No, that’s something we’re not interested in.”
Snell was also coming off throwing a career-high 7 2/3 innings and a career-high 122 pitches on Aug. 25 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Snell has made three starts against the Angels in his career, going 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA.
The Angels plan to counter with rookie left-hander Packy Naughton, who made his first major league start on Wednesday after logging two relief appearances following his recall in August.
Naughton (0-1, 4.00 ERA) had a tough matchup in his first major league start, going up against the visiting New York Yankees and four-time All-Star right-hander Gerrit Cole.
Naughton gave up three runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Yankees and was the losing pitcher in a 4-1 defeat.
“I was really pleased, actually,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Naughton’s outing. “He demonstrated the makeup we had talked about. He had pitchability with the sinker and the changeup off the sinker. I thought he did a wonderful job.”
Naughton faced the Padres on Aug. 27, when he threw 4 1/3 innings and allowed two runs, both unearned, on three hits. He walked two and struck out two.
The Angels (68-70) are coming off a four-game split against the visiting Texas Rangers. While the Padres have been off since Sunday, the Angels played Monday night in Anaheim and were blanked 4-0 by the Rangers.
Shohei Ohtani was the winning pitcher for the Angels on Friday night and hit his major-league-leading 43rd home run on Saturday, but otherwise he struggled in the series, going 2-for-16 with six strikeouts.
His batting average is down to .255, the lowest it has been since the first week of the season.
–Field Level Media