The San Diego Padres have been swept only once all season, but they have a major obstacle to overcome to avoid a second sweep.
Josh Johnson(notes) has the best ERA in the majors and a dominant track record against the NL West leaders, credentials that bode well as he tries to extend the Florida Marlins’ winning streak at Petco Park to seven Sunday afternoon.
San Diego’s lone losing streak of three games was also the only time it was swept - May 14-16 against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers - and that consistency is why Bud Black’s club owns the NL’s best record.
The Padres (60-42) have seen their division lead over San Francisco slip to 1 1/2 games, however, as Florida has continued its string of success at Petco. Ricky Nolasco(notes) pitched into the ninth Saturday in the Marlins’ 6-3 win, their sixth straight in San Diego dating to July 9, 2008.
Florida (53-51) has won 11 of 15 overall to pull with 6 1/2 games of NL East-leading Atlanta.
“If we start to play like we did earlier in the year, then obviously we probably won’t be in it in September,” said second baseman Dan Uggla(notes), whose seventh homer in nine games broke Mike Lowell’s(notes) franchise record of 143. “If we keep doing what we’re doing right now, we’ve got a shot.”
The Marlins should be in great position to finish the sweep. Johnson (10-3, 1.72 ERA) will look for his 20th consecutive quality start as he continues to build an impressive NL Cy Young Award resume.
His latest outing was shaky by his lofty standards. The right-hander gave up three runs over seven innings Tuesday at San Francisco - snapping his streak of 13 starts allowing two runs or fewer - before leaving without a decision in a 6-4 loss.
“When you allow only three runs and you call that an off day, it is amazing,” manager Edwin Rodriguez told the Marlins’ official website.
Johnson has been excellent in two starts this season against the Padres. He threw a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 10-1 home win April 26, then was a hard-luck loser June 26 as he fanned nine over eight innings of a 2-1 loss in Miami.
This time, the Padres should have a new power-hitting presence in the lineup. San Diego acquired Ryan Ludwick(notes), whose 11 homers and 43 RBIs in 77 games are more than any Padres outfielder can claim, from St. Louis in a three-team trade Saturday.
“It gets us in a position where we have a chance to make it to the playoffs and the team’s put us in the position where we can get past the first round, I believe,” first baseman Adrian Gonzalez(notes) said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Ludwick is 0 for 4 with three strikeouts against Johnson.
Despite Johnson’s success, the Padres should hardly consider Sunday’s game a lost cause. Jon Garland(notes) (9-7, 3.56) lasted 6 2-3 innings while beating Johnson in June, improving to 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA against Florida over the last two seasons.
Garland was 1-2 with a 5.02 ERA in five July starts, but his latest outing was encouraging. He held the Dodgers to two runs over 6 2-3 innings, losing 2-0 behind an offense that could only muster five singles all night.