The San Diego Padres were running away with the NL West two weeks ago. It’s turning into a three-team race.
Before beginning a seven-game stretch that could determine their postseason fate, the division-leading Padres look to sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
San Diego (78-59) led the West by 6 1/2 games on Aug. 25, but lost 10 straight before taking the first two games against Los Angeles. The Padres now hold a one-game advantage over San Francisco, which has won four straight and six of seven. Colorado also faced a 10 1/2-game deficit two weeks ago, but has won eight of 11 to pull within 4 1/2 of the lead.
“Those 10 games, I don’t think all 10 of them, maybe it was the last five, for some reason we weren’t playing our game,” Padres closer Heath Bell(notes) said after converting his 26th consecutive save in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory. “We weren’t us. We were somebody else. I don’t know what it was. But we found ourselves. We found our swagger. We got our mojo.”
Beginning Thursday, the Padres host San Francisco for four games before opening a 10-game trip with three against the Rockies.
The Padres have been shut out seven times this season, with two coming at home against Billingsley, who has more career wins (10) against San Diego than any other team.
Trying to prevent Los Angeles (69-70) from dropping two games below .500 for the first time since it was 15-17 on May 10, the right-hander goes for a 10th consecutive start allowing three runs or fewer. Billingsley posted a 4.61 ERA in his first 17 starts.
“He’s back to the guy I first met here two years ago,” manager Joe Torre said after Billingsley struck out seven and threw eight innings of two-hit ball in Friday’s 4-2 victory over the Giants. “He’s got a real good look in his eye.”
In his major league debut Friday, Luebke went five innings and was tagged for a pair of two-run homers among five hits in a 4-3 loss to the Rockies.
“I was disappointed because I think I should have done better,” he said. “But I had a little adrenaline going. I was kind of rushing things and wasn’t hitting my spots.”
Luebke will face a Dodgers team that is batting .198 and averaging 1.8 runs during its four-game skid.
Los Angeles’ last 0-5 stretch was a season high-tying six-game slide July 28-Aug. 2.
San Diego has won four straight at Petco Park in this matchup after scoring four total runs in the first four home games against Los Angeles this season, all losses.