The St. Louis Cardinals arrive in San Diego on Friday riding a wave that has carried them to the top of the National League Central.
The Padres, meanwhile, return home from a 3-3 road trip treading water with five players — including starters Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Jurickson Profar — on the medical injured list with COVID-19-related issues.
Cardinals right-hander Johan Oviedo (0-1, 4.61 ERA) will be paired against Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove (2-4, 3.00) Friday night in the opener of a three-game series.
The Cardinals are on an 11-3 run that includes a 2-0 win at Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon. They have gone 15-5 since an 8-10 start.
Not only are the Cardinals streaking, they feature two players who have tormented the Padres in the past as National League West rivals. Oh, and they be facing a shorthanded Padres team that won two of three in Colorado despite having two Triple-A call-ups and a reserve in the starting lineup.
Third baseman Nolan Arenado (Colorado) and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona) had stellar careers against the Padres before arriving in St. Louis.
Arenado had 22 doubles, five triples, 26 homers and 76 RBIs against the Padres as a member of the Rockies with a .292 batting average, a .361 on-base percentage and a .525 slugging percentage for an .887 OPS. Goldschmidt’s numbers against the Padres are even better — a .300/.417/.528/.945 slash line with 31 doubles, two triples and 22 homers for 86 RBIs.
Arenado and Goldschmidt each has six home runs this season and are first and second on the team in RBIs, with 24 and 22, respectively.
“Offensively, defensively, they give us quality consistency at two very key positions,” Cardinals manager Mike Schildt said of Arenado and Goldschmidt.
This series also features two of the top closers in 2021.
The Padres’ Mark Melancon leads the major leagues with 12 saves. He has a 0.54 ERA. The Cardinals Alex Reyes has 11 saves and lowered his ERA to 0.45 on Thursday.
But the Padres are plugging holes in their lineup right now while waiting for five of their 12 position players to clear the COVID protocols. Tatis and Myers tested positive. Hosmer, Profar and utilityman Jorge Mateo were placed on the injured list due to contract tracing — giving the Padres a major league-leading count of 16 players on the IL.
“Honestly, it’s kind of a fun time,” manager Jayce Tingler said of the Padres predicament. “We’re all coming together. Everyone is battling and that’s what it’s going to take with having five guys down.”
But let’s be honest. Ha-Seong Kim is no Tatis. Patrick Kivlehan and John Andreoli have become Myers. And Tucupita Marcano’s bat is substituting for Hosmer’s.
So it will weigh heavily on Musgrove on Friday night. He pitched the first no-hitter in Padres’ history on April 9. But he has given up 12 runs (11 earned) on 15 hits and four walks over 13 innings in his past three starts. Five of the runs came on three homers.
And Musgrove struggled against St. Louis while with Pittsburgh — posting a 1-7 record in nine starts with a 5.92 ERA and giving up 48 hits in 48 2/3 innings.
Oviedo is in the Cards’ rotation because Carlos Martinez is on the injured list. In his first two starts, the 23-year-old Cuban gave up seven runs on eight hits (including three homers) and two walks in nine innings. Oviedo has never faced the Padres.
–Field Level Media