Padres to use unknown bullpen starter vs. Braves

SAN DIEGO — The Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres meet in the rubber-match of a three-game series at Petco Park Wednesday afternoon and the pitching matchup doesn’t appear balanced.

Starting for the Braves will be right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, who is one of the hottest pitchers in the National League. Starting for the Padres will be the bullpen.

For the second time in 11 days, the Padres will have a “bullpen start.” And for the fourth time this season, the Padres will be starting a pitcher from their bullpen. The situation became even stranger Tuesday night when Padres manager Andy Green couldn’t identify the name of Wednesday’s starter during his post-game media session.

All he would say is that the Padres won’t be promoting a pitcher from the minor leagues for a spot start. They tried that five days ago and Walker Lockett gave up four runs on four hits and five walks in 3 2/3 innings. Lockett was returned to Triple-A El Paso the following day.

Just over 14 hours before the start of Wednesday’s game, the Padres announced Matt Strahm would start Wednesday afternoon’s rubber match. It will be the second time that Strahm has opened a “bullpen game.” On May 27, he started against the Dodgers but went only two scoreless innings.

Strahm doesn’t figure to go much deeper Wednesday. But if there is a silver lining for the Padres is that seven members of their nine-man bullpen are available. And the Padres bullpen is rated the fourth-best in the National League with a 3.35 earned run average.

“Thursday’s off day makes Wednesday a little easier on us,” Green said before the Padres were routed 14-1 Tuesday night. “In general, if you limit most guys to one inning today, they’ll all be available to be used tomorrow. When you are talking about nine guys, you’re in good shape.”

Left-hander Robbie Erlin figures to be the long man behind Strahm. Adam Cimber and Jose Castillo also figure to see action, unless the Padres are in position to win. Then it will be the “leverage trio” of Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen and Brad Hand.

But the bigger question is — does it even matter who is pitching for the Padres.

Foltynewicz has the fourth-lowest ERA in the National League at 2.22. And that’s only a small part of the picture of Foltynewicz’s breakout season. Before this season, Foltynewicz never had an ERA lower than 4.31. Last year’s ERA was 4.79.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Foltynewicz is coming off a complete-game, two-hit shutout. He is 3-1 with a 0.56 ERA over his last five starts — allowing four runs (two earned) on 17 hits with 13 walks and 37 strikeouts in 37 innings.

On the year, Foltynewicz has worked 69 innings in 12 starts, giving up 21 runs (17 earned) on 50 hits and 30 walks with 80 strikeouts with a 1.159 WHIP. In addition to ranking fourth in ERA, Foltynewicz ranks among the National League leaders in road ERA (second, 1.87), opponents’ batting average (third, .200), strikeouts (fifth) and strikeouts per nine innings (ninth, 10.4).

He has made two earlier starts against the Padres and is 1-0 with a 6.17 ERA.