James Shields’ first half ended in contrast to how it began, and his second is beginning against one of the hottest teams in baseball.
NL West straggler Colorado.
If the Rockies can extend their winning streak to a season-best five games Friday night in San Diego, they will have dragged the Padres into a last-place tie of teams with big names that could be made available before the trade deadline.
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After beginning his San Diego career 7-0 with a 3.58 ERA through 12 starts, Shields (7-3, 4.01 ERA) is 0-3 with a 4.79 mark in his last seven. The right-hander gave up four runs, two homers and four walks in 5 1-3 innings of Saturday’s 6-5 win in Texas.
Walks have become a major concern with a rate of 4.66 per nine innings over his last five starts.
"You’ve got to show faith in him," interim manager Pat Murphy told MLB’s official website. "… You have to trust your players, and I think that leads to them owning their performances."
Shields has been better at home, going 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts, though the worst of those came against Colorado. The Rockies tagged him for five runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings May 3, though he got the victory as San Diego won 8-6. Since the start of 2014, Shields is 3-0 with a 4.07 ERA in four starts versus Colorado.
That comes despite Nolan Arenado going 7 for 11 with three home runs against him, while Carlos Gonzalez is 6 for 14 with two homers. Colorado manager Walt Weiss could elect to start Michael McKenry (4 for 7 with three doubles) behind the plate.
The Rockies (39-49) have had no trouble finding the right lineup lately with a .374 average in the last five games. They concluded a four-game home sweep of Atlanta with Sunday’s 11-3 victory with Drew Stubbs homering for the third time in four games. Charlie Blackmon went 3 for 5 for his seventh multihit performance in eight games (17 for 36), and the center fielder has homered three times in his last two games in San Diego.
"I’ve been playing consistently for a while now, but it’s just now starting to show up statistically," Blackmon said.
Gonzalez left the game with leg fatigue but should play Friday, and he’s 13 for 28 with three homers in his last seven games. He figures to at least be mentioned in trade rumors, and the same goes for Troy Tulowitzki. The shortstop homered Sunday and has reached base in 38 straight games to tie Matt Holliday’s 2007 run for the fourth-longest in franchise history.
For the Padres (41-49), the first half ended with consecutive wins in Texas, but that came after a 2-9 slump. Coming out of the All-Star break with a 10-game deficit in the West could result in the breaking up of a group that was formed this offseason to compete immediately. Justin Upton, one of the top free agents for the coming offseason, figures to be one of the names thrown around before the deadline.
He’ll get at least one more shot at facing Jorge De La Rosa, against whom Upton is 9 for 24. Jedd Gyorko (12 for 18), Matt Kemp (18 for 44) and Derek Norris (4 for 5) have also hit him well.
De La Rosa (6-3, 4.34) gave up two runs and four hits in six innings of a 3-2 walkoff win over Atlanta on Saturday. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his last four starts, and he’s been considerably better away from Coors Field with four straight wins, a 4-1 record and 1.67 ERA in five starts. The loss came against the Padres on May 2 to drop him to 0-2 with a 7.23 ERA in his last four in the series.
The Rockies have lost four straight and eight of nine in San Diego.