MLB Insiders: San Diego Padres

James McDonald

The Pirates open a three-game series with San Diego on Friday night at PNC Park. Right-hander James McDonald will be on the hill for the Bucs. The Padres will counter with Edinson Volquez.

Based on how they've performed at PNC Park coupled with San Diego's play on the road, the Pittsburgh Pirates should be able to end their lengthy home losing streak to the Padres.

Of course, if scheduled starter James McDonald's struggles continue, another defeat could be imminent.

McDonald again hopes to break out of his second-half funk and help the Pirates avoid losing a 10th straight home game to San Diego in Friday night's series opener.

Pittsburgh (63-48) lost 6-3 to Arizona on Thursday, but it's still in control of the NL's second wild-card spot thanks largely to a major league-best 35-18 home record. It has lost only one of its last 10 series at PNC Park and is one victory away from matching last season's win total there.

The Padres (49-64), meanwhile, own the majors' fifth-worst road record at 22-34, and have lost five of six away from San Diego.

Despite their recent road woes, they've been quite comfortable playing in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates have been outscored 72-25 in losing their last nine home games against the Padres since a 5-1 win Sept. 18, 2009. This is Pittsburgh's longest active home losing streak against a single opponent, and San Diego's longest current road winning streak over any foe.

The Padres' three-game sweep at PNC Park last Aug. 5-7 - the most recent meetings between these teams - capped a 10-game losing streak for the Pirates and effectively ended their postseason hopes.

The catalyst behind Pittsburgh's playoff push this year is Andrew McCutchen, the majors' batting leader with a .369 average. He has hit .417 in his last 13 home games and is 4 for 8 with a homer, a triple and a double lifetime against scheduled San Diego starter Edinson Volquez (7-8, 3.73 ERA).

McDonald (10-5, 3.42) was also instrumental to Pittsburgh's first-half success, posting a 2.37 ERA before the All-Star break with the Pirates winning 12 of his 17 starts. He has a 7.76 ERA in five outings since, with Pittsburgh losing four times.

Against Cincinnati on Saturday, he gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings of the Pirates' 5-4 loss. One bright spot for the right-hander, though, was that he only walked one after issuing 19 bases on balls in 20 2-3 innings over his previous four outings.

This will be his first start against the Padres since allowing two runs in six innings of a 4-3 road win May 2, 2011.

San Diego opens a seven-game road trip riding a four-game winning streak after beating the Chicago Cubs 2-0 on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep.

Volquez, who has a 2.16 ERA in three career starts at PNC Park, is hoping to be healed from a blister that caused him trouble in Saturday's 6-2 loss to the New York Mets. The right-hander was done after 1 2-3 innings, allowing four runs, two hits and four walks - increasing his major league-worst total to 80 bases on balls.

Volquez now has a 12.15 ERA in his last two starts after going 3-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his previous six.

Last Monday, the Padres were officially sold ... we think.

The sale to a group that headed by the heirs to the O'Malley family of Dodger fame, professional golfer Phil Mickelson and San Diego businessman/civic leader Ron Fowler is final pending the approval of the other major league owners, a vote that could come as early as next Thursday.

But the new Padres' ownership has had a not-so-subtle hand in some surprising decisions made by the team over the last month.

As the trading deadline approached last month, most observers believed the Padres would follow their recent form and trade away their most attractive parts, including right-handed closer Huston Street, left fielder Carlos Quentin and third baseman Chase Headley, for prospects.

Certainly, the general managers of other teams believed that it was business as usual with the Padres. Offers for the three flooded the desk of Padres' general manager Josh Byrnes at PetcoPark.

Then came the stunning reversal of form.

The Padres, who were supposed to be in an ownership limbo, extended the contract of Quentin on July 21. Not only did Quentin get a three-year, $27 million guaranty from the Padres, the year-round San Diego resident got a no-trade provision.

Hard to trade a player who has a no-trade clause for prospects. And if the Padres pick up Quentin's option for 2016, the contract tops out at $37 million.

Exactly a week later, the Padres extended Street for the next two seasons at $7 million per year, with an option for 2015 at $7 million.

Certainly, it wasn't business as usual.

Someone gave Byrnes the go-ahead to make those deals. And it is highly doubtful that it was then majority owner John Moores, who slashed the Padres' payroll over the winter of 2008-2009 as he prepared to sell the Padres for the first time.

Byrnes himself strongly hinted that changes were in the air. "We're looking toward the future," Byrnes said after the Quentin signing. "We do not think we need to tear down what we have. We are looking to build for the future and become a contender as soon as we can."

Not exactly the words of a general manager looking down the road on a five-year plan.

And even the soft-spoken Quentin gave indications that the Padres were headed in a new direction.

"I think they want to get better and build a strong group of players to build around," said Quentin.

Who was they?

Certainly not Moores, who had wanted to rid himself of the Padres since late in 2008.

Certainly not Jeff Moorad, whose bid to buy the Padres on a lay-away plan met resistance from other owners last March when it came up for approval. Moorad's idea was to keep the payroll low and build for the future, even if the future might never come.

Clearly, someone was spending on the Padres.

And that became even more evident when Headley wasn't moved at the trading deadline. The Padres already had a young, low-budget prospect in Jedd Gyorko ready to play third.

Swapping arbitration-eligible Headley for prospects was a Moorad-style deal (see Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, circa 2010 for more details).

So who gets credit for the Padres' new direction?

Much of the credit must go to owners who can't even take credit yet.

The extensions for Quentin and Street and the non-trade of Headley weren't done in a leadership vacuum.

The strong hands of the pending owners, former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, sons Brian and Kevin, nephews Peter and Tom Seidler, Fowler and possibly even Mickelson, were all over those moves.

Peter Seidler admitted as much last Monday night after the final papers were signed by Moores and the remaining minority owners from the failed Moorad purchase, who owned 49.32 percent of the club.

"We are looking to build," Seidler said. "We know what the Padres have done in the past. We have our own plan. We think the fans will like it when we are able to show what we want to do."

They are already getting the message.

Notes, Quotes

LF Carlos Quentin, who didn't play in Wednesday's final meeting between the Padres and Cubs, was 9-for-18 against the Cubs this season with four doubles, four home runs, nine RBI and seven runs in five games. He had a .591 on-base percentage and a 1.389 slugging percentage against the Cubs this season. He made his season debut against the Cubs on May 28 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

RHP Huston Street has yet to appear as a closer in four straight games this season. He has appeared in three straight games three times, including last Sunday-Monday-Tuesday. Street's active run of 20 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings is tied for the longest active streak in the major leagues. Street is 20-for-20 in save opportunities.

OF Chris Denorfia, who has been platooning in right with Will Venable and starting against left-handed pitchers, is hitting .304 (38-for-125) against left-handed pitchers this season. Denorfia is batting .305 (43-for-141) in 51 games since May 28.

1B Yonder Alonso has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games, going 19-for-49 (.388) with eight doubles, two home runs, 10 RBI and six runs.

The Padres sweep of the Cubs at Petco Park was their third series sweep of the season. But it was their first home sweep of the season and the first since they swept the Marlins in a four-game series from Aug. 18-21 last season. The Cubs and Padres split their season series 3-3, with each club sweeping at home.

By The Numbers: 10-2—The Padres' record over their last 12 games at Petco Park. During the 12-game stretch, the Padres have hit .270 (103-for-382) and averaged 4.8 runs per game. Padres pitchers have a 2.43 ERA over the 12 games.

Quote To Note: "Next to winning, that was the coolest part of the game." —C John Baker, talking about when Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija snapped his bat over his knee Wednesday night after striking out on a high fastball from LHP Clayton Richard. Recommended Stories

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