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Washington Nationals Series #12 Preview: Padres Opposition Research

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It's time for the Nationals to head down to rainy San Diego to pitch in a park that swallows home runs. Oh, joy. To prepare you for this series, here is a primer on the San Diego Padres. Learn their strengths and weaknesses and take your job as armchair manager to new heights.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, look!  The Nationals are three games above .500 and there is still plenty of room for improvement.  Having taken two of three in an offense heavy series in Arizona, the Nats have now arrived in San Diego to play four games in pitcher friendly Petco Park.  Funny enough, pitcher friendly this year includes a lot of home runs (2.38 per game, 3rd highest among NL parks).  The Friars offense is the equal of the Nationals offense, but their pitching is decidedly inferior, especially the bullpen.  Of course, the Nationals pitching has been less than consistent at times, so you can count on things being interesting.

Thursday, 10:10 pm - Doug Fister vs Tyson Ross
Tyson Ross has been solid and dependable, though not lights out, for the Padres.  He gets a lot of strikeouts but has been handing out free bases like candy as well.  He is actually not pitching up to his normal levels this year, so maybe the Nats can get in here before he works out his troubles. Fister's ERA is over a full run lower, so the edge goes to him.

Friday, 10:10 pm - Jordan Zimmermann vs Odrisamer Despaigne
Despaigne is known best for his weird changeup. He allowed eight runs against Arizona his last time out, but he has always (in his short career) been much stronger at home in Petco Park than on the road.  Despaigne has spent time in the bullpen, but with Brandon Morrow on the DL he gets to start again.  Zimm has been relatively reliable with six "quality starts" in seven tries.  I can't pretend to know how this one will go down.

Saturday, 8:40 pm - Max Scherzer vs Andrew Cashner
Cashner has six losses in seven starts despite allowing just over two earned runs per game and averaging over 6 IP.  The key word there is "earned", since he also suffered through 10 unearned runs through these seven games.  The Padres have scored a total of two runs in his last four starts.  Scherzer, of course, knows how that goes.  Yes, these pitchers are both good, but if nobody scores any runs it will be because they are both cursed not to get run support.

Sunday, 4:10 pm - Stephen Strasburg (TBD) vs Ian Kennedy
First up, the Nats starter for this game has not yet been announced, but it is Strasburg's turn in the rotation.  In the meantime, let's look at Kennedy.  Ian Kennedy's ERA is 5.92 (compare to Strasburg at 6.06).  Kennedy has a mix of hot and cold starts, so there's no saying what the Nats will face, but getting on base a lot should be doable.  Go offense!

The Padres Lineup

The Padres lineup is not its normal self this week.  Their strongest bat, that of 1B Yonder Alonso, is on the 15 day DL with a shoulder issue.  The Padres responded by moving the also hot Wil Myers from CF to 1B, but he jammed his wrist on Sunday sliding into second base and has missed two games already.  No knowing if he will be able to play against the Nats.  Alonso has a .864 OPS and Myers has a .833 OPS.  This very much weakens the Padres lineup.

Don't count on this lineup order holding true.  I'm just making educated guesses here.

CF - Abraham Almonte
-- bat (switch)
+ glove

Almonte has batted leadoff in the past two games.  He has been getting on base so far through 15 PA (SSS), but his .238/.288/.345 career line does not inspire awe.
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2B - Cory Spangenberg
+ bat (lefty)
average glove
+ speed

Spangenberg batted 2nd on Wednesday, but Solarte and Norris have spent more time in this spot.  Spangenberg is looking strong in his 2nd cup of tea with a .283/.361/.377 line.
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RF - Matt Kemp
++? bat
- glove
+ speed

Like Jayson Werth, but better.  Kemp is the Padres' least valuable player so far, with a .264/.295/.371 line.  That OPS is down .186 from last year.  He is still Matt Kemp, so tread carefully.

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LF - Justin Upton
++ bat
+ speed
- glove
Upton is the best bat left standing, with 8 HR and a .340 OBP.  You know him.  You don't love him.  At least he's not a Brave any more.
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1B - Yangervis Solarte
average bat (switch)
average glove

The backup backup 1st baseman, Solarte had spent most of his time at 3B.  He has a solid bat coming in at .280/.333/.400.
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C - Derek Norris
+ bat
+ glove

This guy was once a prospect traded away to get Gio Gonzalez, and he has turned into a solid player.  He is batting .295/.323/.459.  You might see him up higher in the order, perhaps at #2.
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3B - Will Middlebrooks
-- bat
average glove
Middlebrooks is batting .196/.245/.363.  He plays every day.
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SS - Alexi Amarista
-- bat (left)
+ glove
Amarista closes things out with a whimper at .190/.306/.286.  That's right, he walks a lot and it's not always intentional.

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The Padres Bullpen

The Padres bullpen has a 4.82 ERA.  It's not the greatest bullpen ever.

They do have some solid righties in Dale Thayer and Kevin Quackenbush.  Both feature sub 2.00 ERAs.  Brandon Mauerer is doing well also, but is outperforming his career numbers by a lot.  Joaquin Benoit is struggling with command a little, but is solid as well.

From there on out, the bullpen has been less than spectacular.  Remember Craig Kimbrel?  He's been beatable.  Yes, he does have 10 saves, but he has allowed runs in 40% of his appearances.  His ERA is 5.93 (that's Strasburg territory!).

Shawn Kelley has a 10.81 ERA.  He has a WHIP of 2.70.   He is still on the roster.

Lefty Frank Garces has not been getting lefties or righties out.  He is the only left-handed pitcher on the Padres roster.

Can They Be Swept?

Probably.  Sure, it's a four game series, but the Nats have had a bit of luck lately.  This Padres team is not bad, but with some of their best hitters banged up this is a great time to strike and catch up with the Mets. The Padres spent big and still can't compete with the Dodgers, so why should the Nats let them win any games either? If the Nats want to be as good as the Dodgers, they have to beat the teams that the Dodgers beat.  One does not win 146 games by losing games.

The strategy this weekend will be as follows.  Win one game at a time.   Focus on not losing with a healthy side of scoring a lot of runs.  If the Nats aren't crazy enough to try to sweep the Friars, then of course they won't.  I firmly believe that the Nats are going to try to win every game and I believe in their ability to win each game.  Baby steps to a broom party!

Never give up!  Never surrender!