MLB: Padres look to take advantage of struggling A’s

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On paper, the San Diego Padres’ three-game series with the visiting Oakland Athletics that starts Monday night figures to be a golden opportunity for them to feast on a weaker foe.

But as the first two-plus months of the season have shown, San Diego’s ability to play good ball against top opponents — and bad ball versus losing teams — can’t be underestimated.

The same team that owns two series wins over the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as series victories over Atlanta, Milwaukee and Kansas City has also been swept by two of the worst teams in baseball: Colorado and the Los Angeles Angels.

All that inconsistency has led to a 34-35 record but the Padres also own the National League’s second wild-card spot. And as the sport has shown since playoff expansion, all you have to do is get in.

“I’ve seen the standings and most of the teams are under .500,” Fernando Tatis Jr. said. “They’re in the place that they’re at. But at the same time, I still feel like this group can play way better baseball.”

Tatis is trying to elevate them. His solo homer in Sunday’s 9-3 loss to Arizona stretched his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games. Tatis and Jurickson Profar, who’s strongly trending toward the first All-Star Game berth of a 10-year MLB career, have carried the offense with players like Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts battling injuries.

Dylan Cease (5-5, 3.51 ERA) takes the mound in the series opener. He absorbed a 3-2 loss Wednesday night against the Angels, working six innings and allowing three runs off four hits. Cease walked one and fanned six.

In five career starts against Oakland, Cease is 2-1 with a 4.88 ERA, fanning 32 over 27 2/3 innings but also hurting himself with 15 walks.

Meanwhile, the A’s have followed a surprisingly strong April by falling back to where most folks expected as injuries have hurt their starting rotation. They fell 15 games under .500 on Sunday with a 6-4, 10-inning home loss to Toronto.

Oakland’s rotation has lost Alex Wood, Paul Blackburn and Ross Stripling since the season started. And even when it gets good work from replacements, such as Mitch Spence’s career-best seven innings Sunday, an offense that has sputtered usually can’t produce enough support.

Prior to Sunday’s game, the A’s went six straight games with three or fewer runs. They rank 28th in runs, 28th in on-base percentage and 29th in batting average.

Joey Estes (2-1, 4.67) gets the start for Oakland Monday night. He’s coming off the best outing of his seven MLB games, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning of a 2-1 win Wednesday night over Seattle. Estes didn’t allow a baserunner until J.P. Crawford doubled to start the seventh.

“You kind of know what’s happening but nothing changes,” Estes said of his mindset during the perfect game bid. “I guess you kind of see it but it’s not eating me up in my mind.”

This will be Estes’ first career start against San Diego.

–Field Level Media

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