ST. LOUIS — As the season resumed following a four-day break for the All-Star Game, the San Diego Padres authored perhaps the weekend's most stunning result.
After losing its first nine meetings with the San Francisco Giants, San Diego broke out the brooms at Petco Park with 4-1, 7-6 and 5-3 wins. It tagged losses on All-Stars Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, while pounding Jeff Samardzija for five runs in five innings on Saturday night.
“I think we've grown,” Padres manager Andy Green told the San Diego Union-Tribune after Sunday's defeat of Cueto. “You watch Wil (Myers) work a walk against Cueto and celebrate it like he hit a home run. He made a great pitcher work and we weren't necessarily doing that earlier in the year.”
Having humbled the team with the majors' top record, the Padres (41-51) start a four-game series Monday night in St. Louis, a place where their winning streaks normally go to die.
Since Busch Stadium opened in its third incarnation in 2006, San Diego is 10-24 there, its only series wins happening in 2006 and 2011. It also was eliminated from the National League Division Series there in 2006.
However, Busch has been anything but home sweet home for the Cardinals this year. After a 6-3 loss Sunday to Miami, St. Louis (47-44) fell to 20-28 in the stadium where it was 55-26 a year ago.
What's more, the loss dropped the Cardinals two games behind the Marlins and New York Mets for the final NL wild-card spot, while keeping them eight games back of the Chicago Cubs in the Central Division.
St. Louis hitters fanned a season-high 15 times Sunday, four by Randal Grichuk and three by Tommy Pham, whose frustration may have boiled over in a postgame rant about the strike zone of plate umpire Marvin Hudson.
“The strike zone was horrible, man,” Pham said. “I mean, the guy had no sense of the inside part of the plate or the outside part of the plate. He needs to be held accountable. It's a guy with a lot of years in the league, you know what I'm saying? It'd be different if it were called both ways, but it wasn't.”
While Pham might have to make out a check to MLB for those remarks, the Cardinals are hoping to cash in on this series against an opponent they beat two out of three in late April at Petco Park, scoring 19 runs in the process.
St. Louis starts Mike Leake (6-7, 4.14), who's coming off one of his best outings of the year July 10 in a 5-1 win at Milwaukee. Leake fanned a season-high 10 and walked none in seven innings, recording eight strikeouts on his slider.
The Padres counter with left-hander Christian Friedrich (4-5, 4.50), who has lost his last three starts and allowed 12 runs in 15 innings despite fanning 19 and walking three.
On Tuesday night, the Cardinals' Carlos Martinez (8-6, 2.85) matches up with Colin Rea (5-3, 4.95). San Diego's Andrew Cashner (4-7, 5.05) pitches against Jaime Garcia (6-6, 4.11) on Wednesday night, with St. Louis' Adam Wainwright (9-5, 4.15) going up against Luis Perdomo (3-4, 7.36) in Thursday evening's series finale.