5 things to watch as Yankees face Padres in three-game series in San Diego

Here are five things to watch as the Yankees and San Diego Padres play a three-game series at Petco Park starting on Friday...

Can Yanks start road trip off right?

The weekend series with the Padres starts a nine-game West Coast road trip for the Yankees. They went 5-2 on their most recent homestand. At 35-17 and just 3.0 games up on the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the AL East, the Yanks need to get off to a good start if they want to return to the Bronx still in first place.

After three with the Padres, the Yankees have three against the Los Angeles Angels (20-30), which shouldn't be too bad, but then they'll head out to San Francisco to take on the Giants (25-26). Picking up at least six wins in 10 days should be the goal for this trip.

Can starters keep it going?

Perhaps the biggest surprise of this young season has been how well the Yankees rotation has pitched without ace Gerrit Cole.

This week alone saw the starters go 23.2 innings while giving up just three runs on 11 hits over their four-game series against the Seattle Mariners. Those numbers go back even further, where they dominated the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins last week.

But can they keep it going?

New York will have Carlos Rodon (3.27 ERA), Marcus Stroman (3.05 ERA) and Clarke Schmidt (2.59 ERA) on the bump this weekend. All three have been effective of late, so we'll see if they can continue that trend.

Going up against some tough pitching

While the Yankees starters have been tough, many of the Padres' rotation arms are as well. The Yanks will go up against Yu Darvish (2.08 ERA) on Friday, Dylan Cease (3.05 ERA) on Saturday and the recently-returned Joe Musgrove (5.93 ERA) on Sunday.

If the Yankees want to continue their winning ways, they'll have to hit like they have been in support of their pitching, but it may be tough. Here's how the top Yanks have done against the Padres' probable starters:

All not bad, but the first series of a long road trip could catch the Yankees bats off their game.

Can Clarke Schmidt bounce back?

Schmidt was the one starter who didn't have his best stuff this week. In Tuesday's loss to the Mariners, Schmidt gave up two runs but had to grind through five innings. After the game, Schmidt felt he was tipping his pitches.

Before that start, Schmidt pitched 14.2 shutout innings in his previous two outings. He has taken a step forward in his second year as a part of the rotation, and he'll look to continue that trend in San Diego.

So far this season, Schmidt is actually pitching better on the road. He has a 1.47 ERA in five road starts, opposed to a 3.96 ERA in The Bronx.

Juan Soto returns to San Diego

This will be the first time Soto faces the Padres in San Diego after the Yankees acquired him in a trade this offseason.

In his two seasons with the Padres, Soto slashed .265/.405/.488 with 41 home runs and walked 176 times.

It'll be interesting to see the reception Soto gets in San Diego and how he plays coming back to Petco.