|Rizzo takes center stage as Cubs visit Padres|
SAN DIEGO -- One team has already used the San Diego Padres as a springboard this week to take the lead in a National League division race heading into the All-Star Game break.
Will the Chicago Cubs be the second?
The Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night moved past the Arizona Diamondbacks into first in the National League West by winning three contests in a four-game series against the Padres at Petco Park.
Now the Cubs come to San Diego for the last three games before the break trailing Milwaukee by a game in the National League Central.
This could be an interesting weekend at Petco Park. The Padres' house is expected to be shared by Cubs fans and they have usually been welcomed warmly at Petco Park. But there was a nasty incident between the teams last year that is a lingering issue for some Padres.
During last year's Cubs-Padres series in San Diego, Padres catcher Austin Hedges was injured when he was run into by the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, who was clearly not on a path to the plate at the time of the collision. Joe Torre said Rizzo was in the wrong, but took no action against the Cubs' first baseman -- a non-action that riled some fans.
Up to that night, Rizzo, who made his major league debut as a Padre, was still a favorite among Padres fans.
It will be interesting to see what his reception is Friday night when two struggling pitchers who like working at Petco Park -- Padres left-hander Clayton Richard (7-8, 4.50 ERA) and Cubs right-hander Tyler Chatwood (3-5, 5.01) -- are paired.
Richard will be making his Padres-leading 20th start of the season Friday night and is 6-4 with a 3.70 ERA over his last 12 starts with 56 strikeouts against 22 walks in 80 1/3 innings.
But Richard has struggled over his last three starts, allowing 12 runs on 21 hits and 10 walks against seven strikeouts in 18 innings -- for a 6.00 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP. His five-inning outing in his last start snapped a streak of 11 straight starts of six or more innings.
Richard, who pitched for the Cubs in 2016 before being released and recharging his career with the Padres, is 2-1 lifetime against the Cubs with a 2.60 ERA and a .245 opponents' batting average. Historically, Richard, 34, who lives off getting ground-ball outs, has always pitched better at Petco Park, where he is 32-29 in 81 games (79 starts) with a 3.30 ERA.
Like Richard, the 28-year-old Chatwood has terrible numbers over his three most recent starts -- giving up 14 runs on 16 hits and seven walks with 10 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. Opposing hitters are batting .245 against Chatwood on the season.
But Chatwood has pitched better on the road (3.41 ERA) than at home (6.08) this season and has always liked facing the Padres, particularly at Petco Park.
Chatwood is 6-2 lifetime against the Padres with a 4.17 ERA in 13 games (11 starts). He has a 1.29 WHIP against the Padres and a .247 opponents' batting average.
The numbers tilt even more in Chatwood's favor at Petco Park, where he is 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and .195 opponents' batting average.