The Coors Effect

April 8, 2010 11:10 PM

Series preview: Rockies welcome Padres for home opener

With the first series of the year out of the way, the Rockies return to Coors Field for three home games against the Padres.  Pitching matchups are Friday, Jorge de la Rosa vs. Clayton Richard; Saturday, Jason Hammel vs. Mat Latos; and Sunday, Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Jon Garland.

What to know about the Padres:

Offense: While Petco clearly depresses some of the Padres' numbers, nobody is arguing that anybody in the Padres' lineup is a truly good hitter, either, aside from Adrian Gonzalez.  Chase Headley, Will Venable, and Everth Cabrera are at least okay, and Scott Hairston has been pretty good since coming over from Oakland, though defensive shortcomings often keep him out of the field.  Kyle Blanks has potential, but isn't quite there.  The rest of the lineup... yeesh.  David Eckstein, Tony Gwynn (no, not THAT Tony Gwynn), and Nick Hundley are pretty bad.

Key matchups: Scott Hairston owns Jorge de la Rosa (four hits, including two homers, in seven career at bats.)  It's basically a given that he'll start when DLR pitches.  De la Rosa is 0-2, with a 5.94 ERA, in ten appearances (six starts) against the Padres.  Nick Hundley likewise is 4-for-7 off Jason Hammel, while Adrian Gonzalez is 2-for-11 (though he does have a homer off Hammel.)  Hammel has five appearances (four starts) against the Padres and has yet to get a decision, while posting a 5.33 ERA.  Gonzalez is just 4-for-19 off Ubaldo Jimenez, though again with two homers.  Jimenez is 4-3 lifetime with a 3.72 ERA in eight starts against the Padres.  A lot of the Padres hitters haven't been around that long and don't have meaningful samples against Rockies hitters.

Pitching: The pitchers probably aren't as good as Petco makes them look -- which is a little sad since they still don't look good.  Granted, Richard and Latos are young pitchers whose best days are likely still ahead of them.  Jon Garland was the Opening Day starter, which is kind of sad.  Closer Heath Bell is, of course, very good, and the Pads actually had a pretty solid bullpen all around in 2009.  Edward Mujica, Luke Gregerson, and Mike Adams formed a solid bridge to Bell last season, and all three are back, though it remains to be seen if they'll continue to be solid going forward.  Tim Stauffer and Sean Gallagher struggled as starters but could be good relievers.

Key matchups: To this point, Latos' only career start against the Rockies was the first of his career.  Not going to draw any conclusions from that one.  The Rockies haven't seen much of Richard, either, aside from Miguel Olivo (who saw him quite a bit in the AL Central.)  Carlos Gonzalez is 7-for-11, with five doubles, against Garland.  Melvin Mora is 10-for-28.  On the other hand, Jason Giambi is 2-for-20, while Todd Helton is 4-for-6.  Memo to Jim Tracy: Start Helton on Sunday.

What to expect: The Padres outperformed their Pythagorean record by eight wins in 2009; they had the run differential of a 67-95 team.  Considering that the team traded Jake Peavy last season and brought in no one of note, it's reasonable to expect that the Padres will be pretty bad again in 2010, and Adrian Gonzalez will probably get traded before the deadline.  That doesn't change anything in this series (Gonzalez is still on the team), but there's no reason to expect the Padres to contend for much.  After missing opportunities in the last two games in Milwaukee, the Rockies need to take at least two of three in the first series at Coors Field, and a three-game sweep is not out of the question.  Jimenez's start on Sunday should be a win, so it's on either de la Rosa or Hammel to take care of business in one of the other games; neither has pitched well against the Padres, and since they've only been with the Rockies since 2008 and 2009, respectively, it's not like their career numbers include a bunch of games against good Padres teams.  The good news is that the opposing pitchers in those games, Richard and Latos, are still green and could get shelled, so the Rockies pitching staff doesn't really need to shut the Padres down (though, of course, they should.)  The Rockies should be shooting for a sweep here, but I'd be satisfied with taking two of three.

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