The San Diego Padres opened their 10-game homestand with a bang over the weekend.
They’ll be looking to build on a three-game sweep and move closer to the top of the NL West when they open a four-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday.
The Padres (81-67) swept the San Francisco Giants over the weekend, capped by Sunday’s 5-1 victory. They enter this series leading Philadelphia by 1 1/2 games and the Los Angeles Dodgers by 2 1/2 in the NL wild card race, and trailing NL West leader Arizona by two games.
Still, San Diego ace Jake Peavy said his team won’t be watching the standings as the Pirates (66-83) come to town.
“Doesn’t matter what Philly does, doesn’t matter what L.A., Arizona do, we have to win,” said Peavy, who threw 7 1-3 strong innings Sunday to earn the win. “Forget about it, got to win tomorrow. If we do that, if we take care of our business, we get in the playoffs.”
The Padres took two of three in Pittsburgh May 29-31 in the only other series between the teams this season and have won eight of their last 10 against the Pirates, dating to 2005. They swept Pittsburgh in three games in the last series between the teams at Petco Park, Sept. 22-24 last season.
Center fielder Mike Cameron sat out in part because he tweaked his left knee in Saturday night’s 6-0 win, when he hit a two-run homer. He was 6-for-11 (.545) with three doubles and a homer against the Pirates in May.
“I think the knee is fine, but it might be a good day for Cameron to take a day off,” manager Bud Black told the Padres’ official team Web site. “He’s been going at it pretty hard.”
The Pirates dropped the last two games of their three-game set in Houston, including Sunday’s 15-3 defeat. Jack Wilson, Jason Bay and Carlos Maldonado each homered for Pittsburgh, which has scored more runs (262) than any other team in the majors since Aug. 1.
Now, however, the Pirates will have to contend with a pitching staff that owns a major league-best 3.65 ERA.
Jack Cassel (0-0, 4.66 ERA) will make his second career start and fourth appearance for San Diego in the opener. The Padres decided to start him and skip Justin Germano, who has lost 10 of 12 decisions since starting the season 5-0.
Cassel’s lone start came against the Dodgers on Aug. 31, when he allowed three runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings in San Diego’s 6-4 home win. His last appearance came on Thursday, when he threw one scoreless inning out of the bullpen.
He has never faced the Pirates.
“With Jack, there’s a little bit of an element of surprise,” Black told the Padres’ Web site. “I see a guy with a pretty good sinker in the high 80s and a nice changeup. There’s some confidence to this guy.”
Van Benschoten made seven starts in June and July, going 0-5 with a 9.76 ERA. He was recalled from the minors on Sept. 4 and has made one relief appearance since then, yielding five runs in 1 1-3 innings in St. Louis on Sept. 6.
The right-hander has allowed 23 walks in 29 innings in his eight outings and is hoping to show better control this time around.
“I feel like this is an opportunity,” he told the Pirates’ official Web site. “I feel like I have to take advantage of what I have here, and show them that I can throw strikes, and that I can attack the plate and be bold out there.”
Van Benschoten, who was born in San Diego, has never faced the Padres.