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Series Preview: Astros @ Padres

The last time the Astros faced the Padres, they narrowly avoided being swept at home, winning the last game in the series 4-3.  Tonight, they head over to San Diego to play the Friars on their home turf.  What has been the Modus Operandi of the Padres over the course of this season?

1.  Good pitching.  The Padres have the lowest team ERA in the majors at 3.13.  That ranking is not a simple fluke, either, as advanced pitching statistics (such as FIP and xFIP) support that their pitchers have been the best at denying runs in the Major Leagues (though not quite 3.13 ERA good).  Some of this is due to their cavernous, run-suppressing ballpark, but their pitching staff is certainly competent and balanced, with the bullpen being a particular strength and young phenom Mat Latos fronting a solid starting rotation.

2.  Mediocre hitting.  If PETCO Park gives the pitchers a helping hand, it obviously does the opposite for hitters, so take the Padres' .685 team OPS (fourth worst in the majors) with a grain of salt.  Their best hitter is still Adrian Gonzalez, of course; hold him down, and you've gone a long way toward suppressing San Diego's run production.  If I made predictions in previews, I'd predict a very low-scoring series ahead of us.  But there's a reason I don't make predictions: This is baseball, and predictions about small sample sizes have a way of making you look like an idiot.  So, maybe the teams will score six runs between them in the next four games... or maybe it'll be four blowouts.

3.  Solid defense.  Looking at advanced defensive metrics, it's easy to see why the Padres' ERA is so much lower than their xFIP: Beyond the park factor, they play good defense.  Fielding statistics like The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved and UZR suggest they are one of the best defensive teams in the majors.

Probable Pitchers:

Thursday, July 1st: Brian Moehler vs. Jon GarlandBack-end junkballers.

Friday, July 2nd: Roy Oswalt vs. Mat Latos.  Dueling aces.

Saturday, July 3rd: Bud Norris vs. Kevin CorreiaPromising, under-achieving young guys.

Sunday, July 4th: Brett Myers vs. Wade LeBlanc.  "I don't throw hard, but I'll dominate you in anyway."