MLB: Padres, Diamondbacks look for strong effort from starters

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As the San Diego Padres start an eight-game homestand Friday night with the opener of a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, they do so with an 11-3 record in their past 14 games and stand at a season-high five games over .500.

But to continue to climb in the standings and be the team they aspire to be by October, the Padres will need more from their starting rotation. And that includes players such as Randy Vasquez, Friday night’s starter.

Vasquez (2-4, 4.88 ERA) has pitched well at times but simply hasn’t pitched enough innings to save a bullpen that could use some rest. He has started 11 games this season but averaged fewer than five innings per start.

Vasquez lasted just four innings in his most recent outing on June 28 in Boston, although manager Mike Shildt would have given him a chance to toil longer had his right-hander not taken a liner off his right forearm to start the fifth inning with San Diego ahead 9-1.

But X-rays came back negative and Vasquez will take his turn in the rotation, albeit a day later than planned.

“Nobody’s overly concerned that it’s going to be something that was going to carry forward in any great detail,” Shildt said.

This will be Vasquez’s second start of the year against Arizona. He pitched a career-high 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision on June 6, allowing six hits and three runs with no walks and three strikeouts in the Diamondbacks’ eventual 4-3 win.

San Diego’s bullpen has had to cover 16 2/3 innings in the past four games. It’s likely closer Robert Suarez, plus set-up men Jeremiah Estrada and Adrian Morejon, will be unavailable after working the past two days.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks bussed into town late Thursday after routing the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-3 to win two out of three in that series. First baseman Christian Walker blasted five homers out of Dodger Stadium during the series, including two in each of the last two games.

“A big part of it is the lineup and the protection around me in the lineup,” Walker said. “It gives me the freedom to take some big swings and try to change the score. It’s helpful coming up with guys on a lot.”

Like the Padres, Arizona is contending for a wild-card spot in the National League despite not getting a lot of length from its starting pitchers. The Diamondbacks used Joe Mantiply as an opener Tuesday night, then got just a combined seven innings out of their starters on Wednesday and Thursday.

If history is a guide, Arizona might be going into the bullpen early on Friday night with Slade Cecconi (2-6, 5.81) on the mound. He last worked on June 28 in a 9-4 loss at home against the Oakland Athletics, going four innings and permitting three runs off five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

In six appearances in June, he pitched 25 innings.

Cecconi has faced San Diego twice this year, taking a 7-1 loss at home on May 3 and pitching 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision during the team’s June 6 victory at Petco Park.

The Padres are 4-3 in the teams’ seven prior meetings this season, averaging 7.6 runs per game.

–Field Level Media

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