The San Diego Padres have won only two of their last five games. That’s still been good enough to move atop the NL West.
The Padres (40-36) will turn to struggling right-hander Clay Hensley to help stay in first place when they host the Oakland Athletics (41-35), another first-place team benefiting from their presence in a weak division, on Wednesday.
Hensley (4-6, 4.38 ERA) will be looking for his first win in four starts, having gone 0-3 with a 5.87 ERA in that span. His last outing was his third-shortest of the season, as he allowed five runs, six hits and three walks and was charged with the loss in the Padres’ 5-3 defeat at Texas on Thursday.
“Absolutely very disappointing,” said Hensley, who has never faced Oakland.
The loss began a 1-3 stretch for the Padres, but they moved past Los Angeles and into a half-game lead Tuesday with a 3-0 win over the A’s in the series opener.
Hensley will be looking to follow another strong outing from Chris Young, who threw six innings and gave up two hits and four walks while striking out six. Young improved to 4-0 in his last six starts and helped the Padres to their NL-leading eighth shutout win.
“Our identity as a team is going to be pitching and defense,” Young said. “As a pitching staff, we try to execute good pitches, but it’s how good our defense is that makes the difference. “All over the field, there’s not a weakness out there. The defense has picked us up so many times. They did it again tonight, (center fielder) Mike (Cameron) running down balls, that double play we turned (in the second inning). That’s why we’re where we are.”
Mike Piazza went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and plated another run when he grounded into a double play for the Padres. The veteran catcher is hitting .259 with 10 homers and 30 RBIs.
While Oakland ran off 10 straight wins from June 8-18, the A’s are only six games over .500 after going 3-4 in their last seven. That’s been more than enough to keep them ahead of second-place Texas, loser of three straight, in the AL West. The A’s lead the division by 1 1/2 games.
“Our walks didn’t score. Theirs did,” said Oakland manager Ken Macha, whose team couldn’t take advantage of four Padres walks Tuesday. “We didn’t cash in. They did.”
Right-hander Joe Blanton (7-6, 4.67) will look to continue his recent run of strong pitching when he takes the ball Wednesday. Blanton is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in his last three starts.
He allowed two runs in six innings but didn’t receive a decision in the A’s 4-3 win over San Francisco on Friday. Blanton will be making his first start against San Diego.
The A’s might be without right-handed reliever Kiko Calero, who left the team shortly before Tuesday’s game when he pregnant wife was admitted to a hospital. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.48 ERA in 36 appearances.