Padres open long home stretch by welcoming Cubs (May 29, 2017)

BY AP • May 29, 2017

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Padres return to Petco Park on Monday to begin perhaps the most favorable segment of their 2017 schedule.

Starting with a Memorial Day afternoon game against the Chicago Cubs, the Padres will play 21 of their next 30 games at Petco Park through July 2. An added bonus to the home-heavy schedule will be four days off in June.

Only two teams in the major leagues have played more games than San Diego (19-33), and only one has played more road games through roughly the first third of the season.

That's the good news. But with the Padres this season, there's always a "bad news" kicker.

And the bad news is that the first six games of the upcoming stretch is split between the reigning World Series champion Cubs and National League West-leading Colorado Rockies. In addition, the Padres on Monday will be facing Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, the reigning NL ERA champion.

There are far better known pitchers in the National League. And far better known pitchers who give the Padres trouble.

However, Hendricks (4-2, 3.25 ERA) has had exceptional luck against the Padres, particularly at Petco Park, where, after last season's visit, he said: "I like the mound here, and with the fans in the stands, it feels a little like home."

Hendricks is 3-0 overall in his career against San Diego with a 1.56 ERA in five starts. The Padres are hitting .189 against Hendricks with less than a runner per inning reaching base over 34 2/3 innings.

Hendricks is toughest on the Padres at Petco Park, where he is 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA over 15 innings. Hendricks has a 0.733 WHIP in San Diego.

Starting opposite Hendricks for the Padres on Monday afternoon in the opener of a three-game series will be right-hander Jarred Cosart, who has been something of an enigma since joining the Padres last July 29.

Cosart (0-1, 4.50 ERA) has good stuff, but every time he gets an opportunity, something happens to slow his progress.

This year, for example, he sustained a right hamstring strain during his second start of the season and spent a month on the disabled list. Then last Wednesday against the Mets in New York, Cosart got hit in his right foot by a line drive. After limping around, he departed the game having allowed four runs on four hits and four walks in 2 2/3 innings.

Cosart's only career appearance against Chicago was ugly. In a July 4, 2015, start, Cosart gave up seven runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings.

With both Jered Weaver and Trevor Cahill on the disabled list, Cosart is not in any danger of losing his spot in the rotation any time soon. Even so, Padres manager Andy Green is on record as saying this might be a good time for Cosart to turn the corner and take it to the next level.

"You get only so many opportunities in this game as a player," Green said recently when the subject was Cosart. "This is a golden opportunity."

Twenty-one home games before July 4 could also be seen as an excellent opportunity for the Padres, who are returning from a 3-3 road trip against the Mets and the Nationals. San Diego finished on an up note, defeating the Nationals 5-3 on Sunday after being dominated by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the first two games.

"The at-bats were good from the beginning," Green said. "I thought we took a lot of good sliders today which the past two days we did not do. I thought we did a better job overall."

However, the presence of the Cubs and Rockies as the next two opponents makes the rocky path a little more unbearable, although Chicago (25-24) arrives after being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Chicago third baseman Kris Bryant wasn't too down about the sweep, which followed the Cubs winning seven of nine.

"I don't see any reason to worry," Bryant said after Chicago's 9-4 loss at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. "There are good years and bad years, and good weeks and bad weeks. We're off to an average start, but we're not terrible."



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