The Chicago Cubs are in trouble.
Coming to San Diego hoping to win a four-game series against the Padres to strengthen their hold on a playoff spot, the Cubs go into the Thursday afternoon finale needing a victory just to gain a split.
They might also need a win just to hold onto a piece of the second National League wild-card position.
A 4-0 loss to the Padres on Wednesday dropped the Cubs into a tie with the Milwaukee Brewers for the final NL playoff berth. The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies are both two games back, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are 2 1/2 games back.
With so many teams in the wild-card mix, the Cubs' best route to the playoffs might actually be overtaking St. Louis for the National League Central title. The Cubs go into Thursday trailing the Cardinals by four games -- with seven of their last 10 games scheduled against St. Louis.
"We can't be expecting any help," Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. "We have to win games. It's in our hands. If we win, we're in."
However, the Cubs have won only one of their past six games, including back-to-back defeats the past two days.
Lamet will be making his second career start against the Cubs. The first came in 2017 when he held the Cubs to two runs on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in five innings to gain a win. That was before he had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery at the start of the 2018 season.
The 27-year-old is set to make his 12th start since rejoining the San Diego rotation on July 4. Lamet has lost each of his past two starts despite allowing only six runs (three earned) on nine hits and three walks with 14 strikeouts in 11 innings.
Thursday looked to be a bullpen start for the Padres before it was determined that Lamet would go.
"We really like what we're seeing from Lamet," Padres manager Andy Green said recently. "His stuff was back, with even a bit more on the velocity before the command was. But now he's regaining command. And the spin ranks with the best in the major leagues."
Darvish will be making his team-leading 29th start of the season for the Cubs. He pitched five scoreless innings in his most recent start, Saturday in Milwaukee during a game Chicago eventually lost 3-2. Darvish struck out seven and walked one.
The 33-year-old has allowed only one run over 13 innings in his past two starts. He has a 2.69 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break, with 79 strikeouts against only four walks in 60 1/3 innings.
Darvish is 2-1 with a 4.13 ERA in four career starts against the Padres, but he hasn't faced San Diego since 2017. He is 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA in two previous starts at Petco Park.
--Field Level Media