Cubs-Padres Preview

The Associated Press

After a rare outburst, the San Diego Padres' offense came back to earth.

That figures to bode well for Chicago's Jason Hammel as he pitches for the first time since suffering a scare in his last outing.

The Cubs try to win their first road series of the season Sunday behind Hammel against San Diego.

The Padres (22-28) tallied 12 hits and scored their most runs of the season in Friday's 11-1 victory. However, they reverted to the form fit for baseball's lowest-scoring offense Saturday, recording three hits in a 3-2 loss. It was the sixth time San Diego, which has totaled 12 runs in its losses during a 1-5 stretch, has recorded just three hits - tied with Milwaukee and Seattle for the most games with three or fewer.

Carlos Quentin's second pinch-hit homer in his last three appearances drove in both runs in the eighth. He is 5 for 13 with four RBIs, missing the club's first 39 games with a bruised left knee, then sitting out four straight prior to Saturday with a groin injury.

"He makes us better," manager Bud Black said. "He's arguably our best offensive player each and every night he is in the game."

The Cubs (18-29), who have won five of seven but are 8-16 on the road, had reason to be alarmed in Hammel's start Tuesday against the Yankees. Brett Gardner's line drive struck his pitching hand in the game's first at-bat.

Hammel (5-2, 2.91 ERA) recovered and limited New York to a run in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-1 victory, his first win in four starts. X-rays performed on Hammel's hand were negative.

"It's just swollen," Hammel told the team's official website Wednesday. "I would assume a couple days of soreness. I think it'll be all right."

The right-hander is 4-2 despite a 5.03 ERA in 12 games - 11 starts - against the Padres, though he's 3-0 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts at Petco Park.

The Padres turn to Ian Kennedy (2-6, 3.79), who has a 6.39 ERA in losing his last two starts after going 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA in his previous four outings. He gave up four runs in 6 2-3 innings in a 5-3 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday and was charged with two wild pitches which both led to runs. His five wild pitches are tied for the third-most in the National League.

"When you are trying to throw curveballs down in the dirt, it's going to happen," said Kennedy, who is winless in six home starts with a 4.42 ERA. "I'm trying to bury it when I am ahead, I'm trying to make good pitches. It's kind of disappointing in those situations."

Kennedy is 3-2 with a 6.33 ERA in eight career outings versus Chicago, recording just one quality start. He has allowed at least one home run in each matchup.

He'll try to keep the Cubs' middle of the order quiet, as No. 3 hitter Anthony Rizzo is 2 for 19 over his last six games while cleanup hitter Starlin Castro is 0 for 17 in his last four.

However, Luis Valbuena is 13 for 30 during an eight-game hitting streak with eight runs scored and Nate Schierholtz is 6 for 19 off Kennedy with two homers.

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