Coming off back-to-back shutout losses, the struggling San Diego Padres will try to spark their lifeless offense against the Atlanta Braves in the opener of a three-game series between NL division leaders.
San Diego, owner of the worst record for a division leader this late in a season in the history of baseball, has lost 19 of its last 28 games, including Thursday’s 2-0 defeat at Florida.
The Padres, who were shut out 6-0 on Tuesday, have been blanked 12 times this year, compared to three all of last season. San Diego is batting .202 and has scored just 14 runs over its last eight games, going 2-6 during that stretch.
“We might be struggling but those are two good quality pitchers,” Padres outfielder Eric Young said. “Dontrelle (Willis) wasn’t an All-Star for nothing. And (Josh) Beckett, if he had been healthy, would have been an All-Star, too.”
Despite their lack of production and losing record, the Padres still hold a three-game lead over second-place Arizona in the mediocre-at-best NL West.
The Braves, who own a 5 1/2 -game lead in the NL East in their bid to win a 14th straight division title, dropped two of three to Los Angeles as the third-place Dodgers moved within four games of the Padres in the West.
A bright spot for Atlanta has been the continued re-emergence of star third baseman Chipper Jones, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored in Thursday’s 7-4 loss to the Dodgers.
Limited to 69 games due to a variety of injuries, Jones has come on of late, hitting .468 with 17 RBIs over his last 14 games.
He is 14-for-20 (.600) with five doubles, three homers and 13 RBIs in his last six games, but the Braves have gone 3-3 during that stretch.
“I feel more comfortable,” said Jones. “The game’s fun when you have that feeling.”
Jones is not feeling any effects from the strained rotator cuff that caused him to miss eight starts in late July, or had any setbacks from the foot problem that put him on the disabled list earlier in the season.
“I think Chipper’s swinging the bat better than he has all year,” manager Bobby Cox said.