Venue: Petco Park
While the San Diego Padres believe they have established themselves as a contender, the Arizona Diamondbacks are clearly looking to the future.
The best and worst teams in the NL West begin a three-game set Friday night when the Padres host the Diamondbacks.
San Diego (51-37) and Arizona (34-55) finished with the worst records in the division last season, and not much was expected from either team in 2010. It was anticipated that both clubs would be looking to trade high-priced veterans at this point, with San Diego slugger Adrian Gonzalez a prime candidate to be dealt - as Jake Peavy was in 2009.
The Padres have defied the low expectations, moving into first place on April 20 and falling out of the top spot a total of only three days since. They lead Colorado and Los Angeles by two games, and Gonzalez is unlikely to be traded.
"I think it's a moot point at this stage," co-owner Jeff Moorad said. "Might it revive itself at some point in the future? Of course. But if this team continues to play as it has, that's the last thing on our mind."
Now that the Padres have convinced their ownership they can contend, they want to finish the job.
"Everybody still expects us to fall apart," said reliever Mike Adams, part of a bullpen with a major league-leading 2.84 ERA. "You hear, 'The pitching's not going to hold up, the hitting is not going to get any runs.' It's almost a kind of us-against-the-world feeling every now and then."
The Diamondbacks already have undergone major changes this season. General manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch were fired July 2 before a 10-game homestand in which Arizona won three games.
Interim manager Kirk Gibson insists the club is playing better than it did under Hinch.
"I am different. I'm making them aware of different things," Gibson said. "The pitching overall did a pretty good job. Hitting-wise we have been clear about where we want to see improvement and we want to see that more consistently. That is a work in progress for us. All in all you can't single out any specific area. You win or you lose."
With Arizona expected to make more changes, one player who could be dealt will take the mound Friday.
Dan Haren (7-7, 4.36 ERA), who is 0-3 with a 3.67 ERA in his last five outings, may be one of the top pitchers available with the trade deadline nearing. However, he has a 4.47 ERA after the All-Star break since the start of 2006, compared to 2.63 before it.
The right-hander beat the Padres on opening day by allowing one run over seven innings in a 6-3 victory, improving to 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA in 12 career starts against them. Gonzalez is 10 for 35 with 10 strikeouts against Haren.
Haren's opponent will again be right-hander Jon Garland (8-6, 3.56), who gave up six runs on opening day. Garland has been victimized by poor defense, allowing seven unearned runs in two starts against the Diamondbacks this year.
Garland is 4-1 with a 2.62 ERA in nine home starts.
San Diego is 4-2 against Arizona this year, with Gonzalez posting a .519 on-base percentage with two solo homers among his seven hits in 20 at-bats.
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