The San Diego Padres are one of the biggest surprises in baseball, but they’re not letting this fast start get to their heads.
The NL West-leading Padres look to extend their winning streak to seven when they open a three-game set against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night at Great American Ball Park.
After losing six of its first nine games to drop to last place in the West, San Diego (9-6) has rallied to win six straight, vaulting to the top of the division. This is the latest into a season the Padres have been in first place since they were 76-62 on Sept. 4, 2007. They finished 20 games behind West-winning Los Angeles in 2009.
“We’re not excited we’re in first place. We’re just excited we won a ballgame,” closer Heath Bell(notes) told the Padres’ official website after Wednesday’s 5-2 win over San Francisco. “We’re not jumping up and down. We’re not trying to go to the playoffs in April.”
The Padres, in the midst of their longest winning streak since reeling off 10 in a row last May 15-25, haven’t been to the playoffs since winning the West in 2006.
Pitching has keyed this winning streak, as the starting rotation has a 0.75 ERA over the last six games. Kevin Correia(notes) (2-1, 3.12 ERA) looks to continue that trend when he takes the ball in the opener.
After allowing two runs in 5 2-3 innings in a 17-2 win over Atlanta on April 12, Correia gave up three hits while striking out eight in 5 2-3 innings in Saturday’s 5-0 victory over Arizona.
“That’s what we’ve seen from Kevin since last year and the early part of this year,” manager Bud Black said. “He is continuing to grow as a pitcher and gaining momentum and confidence in what he can do. It’s great.”
Correia, who hasn’t won three straight starts since Aug. 25-Sept. 5, 2007, won both of his outings versus the Reds last season and is 4-0 with a 4.21 ERA in seven career starts against them.
The Padres went 6-1 against Cincinnati in 2009, winning three of four at Great American Ball Park as Adrian Gonzalez(notes) went 6 for 16 with three homers, two doubles and four RBIs. Gonzalez, who hit his third homer Wednesday, is batting .352 with seven doubles and 12 RBIs in 13 career games at Cincinnati.
The Reds (7-9) are coming off Thursday’s 8-5 win over the Dodgers to take two of three in the series following a five-game skid.
“I don’t want to get too theoretical about this, but it probably means we’re swinging at strikes and being aggressive in the zone,” said Rolen, 6 for 13 with five runs in his last three games.
The right-hander needed 103 pitches to get through five innings against Pittsburgh on Saturday, allowing three runs, five hits and four walks in a 5-4 loss.
Cueto, averaging 107.3 pitches per outing, is 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts against the Padres - both in Cincinnati.