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Series Preview/Discussion: Phillies at Padres, Aug. 12-14

Aug. 12: Phillies 3, Padres 2 WP: Jon Lieber (11-10) LP: Jake Peavy (10-5)
Aug. 13: Phillies 5, Padres 2 WP: Ugueth Urbina (3-0) LP: Trevor Hoffman (1-5)
Aug. 14: Phillies 8, Padres 3 WP: Robinson Tejeda (3-2) LP: Chan Ho Park (9-6)
Overview/Recent History
In a series that featured a little bit of everything, the Phillies swept San Diego in a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park last month. After squandering a 6-3 lead in the opener and a bases-loaded, no-out scoring opportunity in the 10th, the Phils sent the fans home happy when Chase Utley slammed a two-run home run in the bottom of the 11th against one-time Phillie Paul Quantrill, who had recently been acquired from the Yankees. Robinson Tejeda was the story the next day, shutting out the Padres over six innings and getting another Utley homer for support. The Phils prevailed 5-1 in the finale behind a strong performance from Brett Myers as San Diego completed a miserable 0-6 swing through the mid-Atlantic. With those three victories, the Phils extended their win streak over the Padres to seven straight, dating back to May 2004.

San Diego comes into this series with momentum, having won six of their last seven games to re-establish control in the NL West, where they lead Arizona by four games. Pitching has been the key, as Friday starter Jake Peavy won NL Player of the Week honors for August 1-7 with two victories and a 1.69 ERA and newly acquired Chan Ho Park, who starts Sunday, outdueled Pedro Martinez in his Padres home debut this past Tuesday. For the year, the Friars are 32-24 at home and 11-7 against NL East foes. The Phillies enter Friday's game with a 24-30 road record and an impressive 16-6 mark versus the NL West.

Strengths and Weaknesses
Owing in part to their pitcher-friendly home ballpark, the Padres have few hitters who strike immediate fear into opposing pitchers. Outfielder Brian Giles is probably the biggest all-around threat in the lineup: his .416 on-base percentage is 5th in the NL, and he leads the league in walks with 87 (against just 48 strikeouts). Ryan Klesko leads San Diego with 16 homers. First baseman Mark Sweeney is quietly having the best season of his career in a platoon role, batting .333 with a .975 OPS in part-time action. The Padres' team OPS of .736 is just 11th in the NL, but their .335 OBP ranks fifth. A .263 batting average with men on base, 14th of the 16 NL clubs, has contributed to the team's low total of 496 runs scored (11th in the league).

What the Padres lack in front-line talent, they somewhat make up in versatility and a very solid bench. Lefty-masher Xavier Nady has played both infield corners and all three outfield spots this season; Eric Young bounces from second base to left and center field; and Damian Jackson has seen duty everywhere on the field but first base, pitcher and catcher. Robert Fick has caught, played first, and seen time at both outfield corners. Manager Bruce Bochy has gotten terrific value out of all these players, fitting their talents to game situations.

The San Diego pitching staff has specialized in high-strikeout, low-walk performance through 2005. The team's strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.39 is second-best in the NL, and their rate of 7.11 strikeouts per nine IP is third-best. That means a decent chance of numerous short walks back to the dugout by Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard and other Phils sluggers this weekend. The best of the bunch, Peavy, goes Friday night: his 165 strikeouts are second in the league, and his .216 opponent batting average is 6th. Over his last three starts, Peavy's allowed just four runs in 24 innings, striking out 29. After him, though, the rotation is a bit thin, as demonstrated by the fact that two of San Diego's three projected weekend starters (Pedro Astacio and Chan Ho Park) began the year with the Texas Rangers. The bullpen has been a major strength, however, as 37 year-old closer Trevor Hoffman has racked up 30 saves and setup men Akinori Otsuka (2.40 ERA, 47 strikeouts in 48.2 IP) and Scott Linebrink (2.72, 49 K/49.2 IP) have turned in very strong seasons.

Padres Regulars
C Miguel Olivo
1B Robert Fick/Mark Sweeney
2B Mark Loretta
SS Khalil Greene
3B Joe Randa
RF Brian Giles
CF Dave Roberts/Xavier Nady
LF Ryan Klesko