The Padres look to defeat the struggling Cubs for the eighth straight time Monday when the teams open a two-game series at Wrigley Field.
San Diego (7-5) swept its seven-game season series with the Cubs in 2006, recording the last three of those victories at Wrigley. The Padres outscored Chicago 40-15 in the seven meetings, which included two shutouts.
In the final matchup, a 9-0 San Diego road win on May 14, Padres starter Clay Hensley (0-2, 9.00 ERA) enjoyed the finest outing of his career. He pitched his only career complete game, limiting the Cubs to two hits and a walk while striking out two and throwing just 92 pitches.
Hensley has pitched nothing like that in his first two outings of 2007, however, losing twice to the San Francisco Giants while giving up a total of 11 runs and failing to pitch through the fifth inning.
Last Tuesday, the 27-year-old right-hander gave up six runs - four earned - in 4 1-3 innings of a 6-5 loss, but denied a blister on his middle finger that developed in his season debut was bothering him.
“It’s not as bad as it was in San Francisco,” Hensley said.
Hensley and San Diego’s pitching staff will look to bounce back after giving up nine runs twice over the weekend to the Dodgers at Los Angeles. Starter Chris Young lasted just two innings in Sunday’s finale, yielding five runs, seven hits and five walks in the Padres’ 9-3 defeat.
San Diego, which has alternated wins and losses in its last six games, has compiled a 1.13 ERA in its seven wins this season but a 6.43 ERA in its losses.
Facing the Cubs (4-7) could give the Padres’ pitchers a chance to develop some consistency. Chicago is batting just .228 in its four home losses this season, and managed only four hits in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Cincinnati.
The Cubs, who spent about $300 million over the offseason in an attempt to improve their roster, have dropped five of six overall and are 1-4 at home for the first time since 2002.
“What have I seen? What have you all seen?” a frustrated manager Lou Piniella asked after Sunday’s loss. “You ask me like I’m the only eyes in this room. What have you all seen?”
Third baseman Ryan Theriot, filling in for the injured Aramis Ramirez, had three of Chicago’s hits to improve his season average to .381 (8-for-21). In three starts since Ramirez has been sidelined with tendinitis in his right wrist, Theriot is 8-for-12 with three RBIs.
Ramirez, though, could return to help jump-start the Chicago offense. He was batting .406 (13-for-32) with a home run and five RBIs in his first eight games before the injury. Cubs manager Lou Piniella said he’s “hopefully optimistic” that Ramirez will be able to play Monday.
The Cubs will send Jason Marquis to the mound on Monday. Marquis (0-1, 3.27) allowed three of his four runs in the first inning of his last outing, a 4-2 loss to Houston on Tuesday. He finished the day yielding four runs - three earned - four hits, and four walks in five innings of work.
The right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.63 ERA in five career appearances, including four starts, against the Padres.