Difficult times are something that both the San Diego Padres (28-35) and the Philadelphia Phillies (25-36) know all too well. For the majority of the season, San Diego has failed to find any footing, but the Phillies skid as of late has been nearly at a freefall over the last couple of weeks of the season. Now, the two teams face off in a three game battle that will give way to whichever team decides to play like a MLB team.
As losers of eight of their past nine games, the Phillies find themselves spiraling out of control, and have hopes that a back-to-back series against two of the most troubled teams on the season, the Padres and the Cubs, will get them heading in the right direction. Over the course of the last seven days, the Phillies have hit a combined .231, but more importantly, their pitching staff has completely fallen apart, posting an ERA of 5.48.
The Friars will get A.J. Burnett in the first of the three game series, and despite his strong start to the season, the last month has been a nightmare for the 37-year-old veteran from North Little Rock, Arkansas. In his last four starts, he has given up 26 hits and allowed 20 earned runs in just 25 innings. If the Friars can jump on Burnett, and set some momentum, they have the opportunity to pull out some wins. However, the Friars have played plenty of “winnable” games in the last month, and have failed to capitalize, so Padres fans continue to stay cautiously optimistic.
It is the same old story, same old song and dance for the Friars at the plate. They head into Philadelphia as winners in just two of the last seven games, somehow managing to make just about every pitcher they face look like Sandy Koufax. In their five losses, they have managed just 16 total hits, and if they look to bounce back against Burnett and the Phillies, production is going to have to be much better. The first change manager, Bud Black is making is moving leadoff hitter, Everth Cabrera out of the leadoff position, and opting to use him in the second hole. What can only be described as another questionable and baffling move is not that he moved Cabrera, but who he has chosen to insert into the leadoff position. Will Venable, who is batting .203 on the season, with 51 strikeouts, and .272 OBP will take over as the new spark plug to get things rolling for the Friars.
At this point, Bud Black may not have a ton of options, but every sign is pointing to poor decision-making on his part. For too long, he has stuck with Cabrera, who strikes out way too often for a leadoff hitter, and now he has decided to replace him with another hitter who has failed to hit all year long, and also strikes out way too often. If it is time to make changes, then serious changes need to be made. Perhaps he should try Maybin at leadoff, and hit Seth Smith in the number two hole. Something needs to be done to give the Padres some type of spark, otherwise they will find themselves struggling to win games against a Philadelphia Phillies team which is very beatable.
Commentary by Johnny Caito