After taking sole possession of the NL West lead for the first time in more than a month, the Arizona Diamondbacks look to widen the gap when they continue their three-game series against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday.
Arizona trailed division co-leaders San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers by 4 1/2 games on July 20, but has won nine of 10 to pass both teams in the standings. With a 4-0 win over the Padres on Tuesday, the Diamondbacks (59-49) became the lone division leaders for the first time since they held a half-game advantage over the Dodgers on June 25.
They lead the Dodgers by one game, with the Padres (56-49) trailing the Diamondbacks by 1 1/2 and Colorado sitting 3 1/2 back.
“Anytime you’re in first place in the second half, it’s meaningful,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But there’s a lot of teams bunched, including Colorado. One day you could be in first, the next day you’re in third, the way it’s worked out so far.”
Stephen Drew and Chris Young each hit two-run homers Tuesday, helping the Diamondbacks get back on track after having their eight-game win streak snapped with a 14-0 loss to Atlanta on Sunday. The win was Arizona’s sixth shutout of the season, and its third in 10 days.
The Padres, on the other hand, were shut out for the fifth time this year and fourth time in July.
San Diego ranks 28th in the majors with 444 runs scored and last with a .243 batting average. The team’s continued struggles prompted the firing of hitting coach Merv Rettenmund on Tuesday, with former Padres first baseman Wally Joyner taking over.
“I think it was not as much the numbers but maybe our overall hitters’ approach,” general manager Kevin Towers said. “We felt we could maybe plan the attack better.”
In addition to the new hitting coach, the Padres also hope a flurry of activity at the trade deadline can help reinvigorate the team. San Diego made three trades on Tuesday, acquiring third baseman Morgan Ensberg from Houston, outfielder-infielder Rob Mackowiak from the Chicago White Sox and reliever Wilfredo Ledezma from Atlanta.
David Wells (5-7, 5.02 ERA) will start Wednesday for San Diego, hoping to bounce back from his two worst outings of the season. The 44-year-old left-hander has been tagged for seven runs in each of his last two outings, lasting just 7 1-3 innings combined in those games. He suffered a 7-1 loss at Houston on Thursday.
“Everything was the problem,” said Wells, who hasn’t lost three straight starts in a single season since Aug. 22-Sept. 1, 2003, when he pitched for the New York Yankees. “I left everything over the middle of the plate. Leaving it up, down the middle. You are not going to win many games like that when you are in that zone. I just couldn’t throw anything. I couldn’t hit the corners. Everything was up and you saw the result.”
Wells is 4-2 with a 4.62 ERA in 10 career starts against the Diamondbacks, including a 1-0 mark and 5.25 ERA in two starts against them this year.
He’ll face Micah Owings (5-5, 5.13), making his first career start against the Padres.
Owings is still seeking his first win in nearly six weeks. He is 0-4 with a 7.53 ERA in seven games, including six starts, since beating Tampa Bay on June 20. In his last start Thursday, he didn’t get a decision in Arizona’s 7-4 win over Florida after giving up four runs and six hits in three innings.