A new park and several new players have the San Diego Padres feeling a lot better about themselves this season.
The Padres look to maintain at least a share of the NL West lead when they face the Milwaukee Brewers in the opener of a three-game series.
After 53 games last season, the Padres were 15-38 and already 19 games out of first place in the NL West. At the same point this year, they are five games over .500 and tied with Los Angeles for the division lead.
“We made a lot of changes,” Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re a different club, we’re healthy for the most part. Last year we missed a lot of our core guys.”
One of the biggest reasons for the Padres’ improvement is the play of right fielder Brian Giles, in his first full season with San Diego. Giles leads the team with nine home runs, 34 RBIs and five steals and is second with a .391 on-base percentage.
The addition of Jay Payton also has provided a boost.
Payton, signed as a free agent after two seasons in Colorado, is second on the team with a .311 batting average and leads with a .398 on-base percentage. He is batting .428 (18-for-42) during an 11-game hitting streak.
After getting outscored 14-2 in consecutive losses to Colorado, Payton’s RBI single with two outs in the 10th lifted the Padres to a 3-2 victory over the Rockies on Wednesday.
“You don’t want to get swept at home in your last two home series,” Payton said. “To get a win was nice. Hopefully, we can take that momentum and just carry it over the weekend.”
The Brewers are also showing dramatic improvement through the first two months this season, sitting seven games ahead of their 2003 pace at 26-25.
Milwaukee split the first two games of an eight-game trip at Dodger Stadium, winning 4-1 on Tuesday and losing 5-2 on Wednesday.
First baseman Lyle Overbay got off to a fast start this season, but has cooled off considerably. His double in Wednesday’s loss was just his second extra-base hit in 14 games. Overbay has two RBIs in that span after driving in 20 runs in his previous 14 contests.
BREWERS PROBABLE STARTER: Victor Santos (2-2, 4.50 ERA). Santos was ineffective for the second straight start Sunday, yielding five runs and eight hits in six innings in a 5-2 loss to the Padres. Prior to the poor two-start stretch, the right-hander had allowed five runs in his previous four outings, spanning 22 innings. He is 0-2 with a 12.27 ERA in three career appearances against San Diego.
PADRES PROBABLE STARTER: Dennis Tankersley (0-1, 2.00 ERA). Despite taking the loss, Tankersley pitched well in his first start since April 8, 2003, giving up three unearned runs and three hits in six innings of a 4-3 loss at Milwaukee on Saturday. He walked two and struck out a career-high nine. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 6.89 ERA in three career starts against the Brewers.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Brewers - Overbay, .332 avg. and 40 RBIs; Scott Podsednik and Keith Ginter, 7 HRs; Podsednik, 38 runs and 24 SBs. Padres - Sean Burroughs, .333 avg.; Giles, 9 HRs, 34 RBIs and 5 SBs; Mark Loretta, 37 runs.
SEASON SERIES: Padres, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Brewers - RHP Danny Kolb has converted 35 of 38 save opportunities since becoming Milwaukee’s closer last year at the All-Star break. … The Brewers are 8-14 all-time at San Diego. … The three pitchers the Brewers will start in this series—Santos and RHPs Wes Obermueller and Matt Wise—have a combined 13 career wins. Padres - San Diego is 9-0 in one-run games at Petco Park. … 1B Phil Nevin is batting .422 in day games this season, but only .240 at night. … 3B Sean Burroughs is batting .356 (21-for-59) during a 14-game hit streak, one shy of his career high.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Brewers - 12-13 on the road; Padres - 14-11 at home.
INJURIES: Brewers - RHP Ben Sheets (viral infection), day-to-day; INF Wes Helms (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Chris Capuano (arm), 15-day DL; RHP Ben Ford (shoulder), 15-day DL. Padres - INF Ramon Vazquez (oblique), 15-day DL; OF Ryan Klesko (rib cage), 15-day DL; LHP Sterling Hitchcock (rib cage), 15-day DL; RHP Jake Peavy (forearm), 15-day DL; LHP David Wells (hand), 15-day DL.