Maybe seeing an NL West opponent, particularly the San Diego Padres, can provide the Philadelphia Phillies a sorely needed boost.
Too bad for the Phillies they won’t face another one until after the All-Star break following this three-game set, which continues Wednesday night with Cole Hamels looking to extend his dominance of the slumping Padres.
Philadelphia (26-36) is below .500 against every division – the AL Central is the only one it hasn’t played – except for a 10-7 mark versus the NL West. The only time in the past 12 years the Phillies haven’t had a winning record against that division was 2007.
Keying that success is their mastery over the Padres (28-36), winning 26 of 34 matchups since last losing a series to them in 2009. Philadelphia entered its first game against San Diego this season having lost eight of nine but won 5-2 on Tuesday.
"Create some momentum. We just have to carry it over into tomorrow," manager Ryne Sandberg said.
The Phillies have an 11-22 record since May 5 and share the NL’s worst record with the Cubs.
Hamels (2-3, 3.49 ERA) can’t be blamed for those woes, posting a 2.11 ERA over his last six starts and lasting at least seven innings each time. His finest performance came Friday, striking out seven in 7 2-3 innings of an 8-0 win at Cincinnati.
The left-hander has heavily contributed to Philadelphia’s superiority over the Padres, going 8-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 11 matchups since the start of 2008 and winning his last five decisions against them. Oddly, though, Hamels is 0-4 in his last 10 outings against NL West foes.
Philadelphia doesn’t face another one until a seven-game homestand against San Francisco and Arizona from July 21-27.
One of the few teams struggling as much as the Phillies is San Diego, losing six of eight. The Padres are hitting .131 and averaging 1.8 runs during that stretch.
Everth Cabrera is 2 for 30 in June and hitless in 18 straight at-bats, as is Jace Peterson, and Yonder Alonso is hitting .138 in his last nine games. Carlos Quentin ended an 0-for-24 drought with a double Tuesday, and Will Venable snapped a 1-for-14 slump with a third-inning solo homer – his second of the season after hitting 22 last year.
Tyson Ross (6-5, 3.22) also has started this month poorly after a great May, when he was 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA. He gave up six runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-0 loss to Washington on Friday, allowing a homer for the first time in five starts along with three walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch.
"I just kind of lost my release point a little bit," Ross said after surrendering four runs in the sixth.
His lone start against the Phillies was a bigger disaster, getting pulled in the first inning and charged with six runs in a 10-5 defeat Sept. 12.
Marlon Byrd has faced Ross more than any Phillie, going 1 for 7. He homered for the second time in three games Tuesday with a three-run shot.
Chase Utley has hit .389 in his last 10 matchups with the Padres and had two hits Tuesday. So did Ryan Howard, a career .331 hitter against San Diego.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon became the 26th pitcher with 300 saves after leaving the bases loaded in a scoreless ninth.
"It means a lot to me, more than most people would think," said Papelbon, who has allowed one run in his last 23 innings.