|11:20 AM PT12:20 PM MT1:20 PM CT2:20 PM ET14:20 ET18:20 GMT2:20 11:20 AM MST1:20 PM EST1:50 PM VEN22:20 UAE1:20 PM CT, July 19, 2019
Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois Attendance: 39,526
Slumping Padres to face surging Cubs at Wrigley
Two teams distancing themselves from their rivals meet over the next three afternoons at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
But they are headed in opposite directions.
The Chicago Cubs are 5-1 since the All-Star break to open up a three-game lead in the National League Central.
Meanwhile, the San Diego Padres are 1-5 coming out of the break and are 4-10 over their last 14 games to fall further and further out of the second Wild Card spot.
While the Cubs appear to be at a threshold, the Padres are definitely at a crossroads, having just lost two of three games to the Miami Marlins after losing seven straight home games at Petco Park.
In a match of left-handers, the Padres will open with Eric Lauer (5-7, 4.04 ERA) Friday afternoon while the Cubs counter with veteran Jon Lester (9-6, 3.74 ERA). An added factor will be the weather. Triple-digit temperatures are expected for the first two games of the series.
This will be Lauer's first start since July 5. He had been away from the Padres on bereavement leave following the death of his father just before the All-Star break.
"He's a big part of our family," said Padres manager Andy Green of Lauer's absence from the team. "He's been through a lot with his family. I can't imagine what he's had to walk through over the last couple of weeks. We're here to support him. To have him here. Him getting back on the mound at Wrigley Field will be as cathartic an anything can possibly be for him. I know he really wants to pitch right now."
The 24-year-old Lauer has been, with one exception, the Padres' most consistent starter over the past two months. Over his last nine starts, Lauer is 3-3 (and the Padres are 6-3) with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.224 WHIP in 50 2/3 innings. He allowed exactly one earned run in seven of those nine starts.
Lauer's ERA has fallen from 5.75 to 4.04 over the last nine games.
He made one start against the Cubs during his 2018 rookie season. It did not go well. He gave up five runs on five hits and a walk with three strikeouts in two innings to suffer the loss (0-1 vs. Cubs, 22.50 ERA). Cubs hitters went 5-for-11.
Lauer had celebrated his 11th birthday just a week before the 35-year-old Lester made his Major League debut on June 10, 2006.
Lester will be making his 19th start of the season on Friday. It will also be the 14-season veteran's 400th career appearance and 399th start. Now in his fifth season with the Cubs, Lester has a 70-37 record and is a two-time National League All-Star who finish second and ninth in two NL Cy Young Award races.
"Jon is the ultimate professional," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said earlier this season while discussing Lester. "He is going to be there every fifth day and he'll give you everything he has. You can set your clock by Lester. That's a sign of being the ultimate pro. Pitchers like him are rare and getting rarer."
Lester will be making his eighth career start against the Padres. He is 3-1 with a 3.98 ERA and a 1.279 WHIP in 40 2/3 innings against the Padres, allowing 18 runs on 40 hits and 12 walks with 36 strikeouts.
--Field Level Media
Updated July 18, 2019