Could Saturday night's game be the one that snaps the San Diego Padres out of their season-long doldrums?
Padres manager Bob Melvin certainly hopes so.
"It was important showing up tonight the way we did," Melvin said after the Padres posted a 6-0 win over the visiting Chicago Cubs to improveto only 27-31 this season.
Fernando Tatis Jr. hit two homers and Yu Darvish allowed two infield hits over seven innings to pace San Diego.
"We played an excellent all-around game," Melvin said. "We're starting to find our way offensively."
But Melvin has said that before -- earlier this week, in fact. In succession over the last seven games, the Padres have been either hot or cold with their offensive production.
"Offense, it hasn't happened consistently this year," Melvin said. "I'm still convinced it is going to. To be a really good team, you can't just have four or five spots in the lineup where you are getting production from."
In addition to getting two homers and four RBIs from Tatis on Saturday night, the Padres at the bottom of their lineup produced a pair of runs on a sacrifice fly and only the third RBI from Trent Grisham since May 2.
But Melvin knows getting offense every other game is not a winning formula. Which makes Sunday so important as the Padres face Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman (5-4, 2.59 ERA). The Padres will counter with left-hander Ryan Weathers (1-3, 4.28).
Stroman, however, is not exactly who the Padres want to face in hopes of getting on an offensive roll. In fact, the 32-year-old has become one of the toughest pitchers in the majors. He not only leads the league with 12 starts, his 0.986 WHIP also ranks No. 1 and opposing batters are hitting .188 against him.
In his most recent start, against Tampa Bay on Monday, Stroman shut out the Rays on one hit and one walk with eight strikeouts in a complete game.
"What can I say," Cubs manager David Ross said. "A big-time performance from a big-time pitcher. He's a star who likes to shine bright. I don't know how many times I can say 'he's a big-time pitcher who threw well today."
Stroman has pitched 73 innings this season. He has given up 21 runs on 48 hits -- just five homers -- and 24 walks with 62 strikeouts.
"It's weak contact," Ross said.
Stroman, who is 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA in four career starts vs. the Padres, is a part of a solid Cubs rotation that took a major hit Saturday after left-hander Justin Steele (6-2, 2.65 ERA) was placed on the 15-day injured list with forearm tightness.
Meantime, the Padres also have injury problems. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts (wrist soreness) and infielder Rougned Odor (groin) could wind up on the injured list.
"Sunday is an important day for both Odor and Bogaerts," Melvin said.
And Weathers is in the Padres' rotation because Seth Lugo is on the injured list. Weathers is 0-2 in his three starts since May 14, giving up 12 runs (11 earned) on 17 hits and nine walks in 15 2/3 innings for a 6.32 ERA.
Weathers is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in four career appearances (three starts) against the Cubs.
--Field Level Media