Diamondbacks, Padres open crucial four-game series

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The Arizona Diamondbacks and the host San Diego Padres, two teams currently on the outside in the National League wild-card race, meet for four games starting Thursday with hopes of building some much-needed momentum.

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The Diamondbacks are 1 1/2 games below the NL wild-card cutoff line while the Padres are 4 1/2 games out as they prepare to meet for the final time this season. Arizona snapped out of a nine-game losing streak last weekend by taking the final two games of a three-game set against the Padres in Phoenix.

Padres manager Bob Melvin called the losses in Arizona “two of the toughest of the season” while Arizona manager Torey Lovullo hoped the Diamondbacks‘ two wins were “a turning point.”

Before defeating the Padres on Saturday and Sunday, the Diamondbacks had seven wins in their previous 32 games. Now Arizona comes to San Diego having won four of its past five.

Meanwhile, the Padres are fresh off opening a 10-game homestand with two wins in three games against the American League East-leading Baltimore Orioles.

“There was really good energy,” Melvin said of the Padres‘ 5-2 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday. “Hopefully we keep putting to bed some of the issues we’ve had and get on a run.”

Another victory on Thursday would allow the Padres to match their longest winning streak of the season — three games. And while Melvin says the Padres‘ only hope is concentrating on one game at a time, he can read the schedule and see opportunity.

The Padres‘ next seven games at home are against two teams ahead of them in the wild-card race — Arizona and the Miami Marlins. San Diego’s next homestand will consist of seven games against the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies, giving the Padres 14 straight home games against teams they must pass to reach the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the series in San Diego starts a run in which the Diamondbacks will play 16 consecutive games against teams with playoff hopes.

“The opportunity is there for us,” Lovullo said.

Arizona will open the series with staff ace Zac Gallen (12-5, 3.24 ERA) on the mound. The right-hander will oppose 43-year-old left-hander Rich Hill, who is 0-2 with a 12.79 ERA in his first two starts as a Padre since he was acquired in an Aug. 1 trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Overall, Hill is 7-12 with a 5.17 ERA.

In his two Padres outings, Hill has given up a total of nine runs on 11 hits in just 6 1/3 innings. If he again struggles early, as he did on Saturday in a 3-0 loss to Gallen and the Diamondbacks, look for the Padres to turn to Pedro Avila. The right-hander has followed Hill in each of his San Diego outings and given up one run on eight hits and one walk with nine strikeouts over 9 1/3 innings.

“We brought in Hill for a reason,” Melvin said, “but Avila is going to be ready.”

Hill is an ugly 1-9 with a 6.29 ERA in 14 career starts vs. Arizona, including an 0-2 mark with a 9.82 ERA in two outings this year.

Gallen shut out the Padres on four hits and a walk with eight strikeouts over six innings on Saturday. He is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA, a 0.790 WHIP and a .186 opponents’ batting average in three starts against San Diego this season.

Gallen is 3-3 with a 3.34 ERA, a 1.226 WHIP and a .217 opponents’ batting average in 11 career starts against the Padres.

—Field Level Media

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