Real Test Coming for Young San Diego Padres Squad

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IAugust 14, 2009

PHOENIX - JULY 08:  Tony Gwynn #18 of the San Diego Padres celebrates with teammate Will Venable #25 after Gwynn scored a run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning of the major league baseball game at Chase Field on July 8, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Sure, they took three of four from the New York Mets, who have all but squandered their season, and sure, they took two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers this past week. 

But the real test starts tonight for a young San Diego Padres' squad as they visit the St. Louis Cardinals for the first of a three game set from Busch Stadium.  They will have young right-hander Mat Latos (4-1, 2.43) against Cardinals' right-hander Adam Wainwright (13-7, 2.73) who looks to become the first National League pitcher to get to 14 wins on the season.

Though the Padres have won 11 of their last 16 games, I'm not sure they can say they've really been tested with exception to maybe their four-game set against the New York Mets.  A series in which the Padres took three out of the four games.

But, the real test will show just how good this young team is against playoff contending teams.  The Padres will play three games in St. Louis, then return home for seven games against the best the National League Central has to offer. 

The Padres will host the Chicago Cubs for three games and then welcome in the St. Louis Cardinals for a four game set.

This is the real test, as these are the teams that will show what this team is made of.  How will Latos handle pitching against St. Louis, pitching against a playoff-bound team and doing so on the road?  He faced Atlanta and New York at home and beat both of them, but that was on his home turf.  Now, he has to face a very strong offensive team in a hostile environment.  Will he stand and deliver or will he wilt under the pressure?

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The other question comes behind Mat Latos because the Padres will throw two other young arms in games two and three of this series against the Cardinals. 

On Saturday, Tim Stauffer (1-4, 2.90) will get the start against St. Louis.  Stauffer is coming off a great outing on Aug. 9 against the New York Mets as he gave up just one run on five hits, striking out six through five innings of work but go no offensive support in a 5-1 loss.

Closing out the series will be San Diego's newest addition to the starting rotation, Clayton Richard (6-3, 4.57).  Richard is coming off a rough start against Milwaukee on Aug. 11, giving up four runs on six hits through six innings of work in a 13-6 San Diego win.

Though the Padres are way out of the playoff chase, they can have a definite say in who does make the playoffs, and could very well play spoiler to a few teams down the stretch.

The Padres still need to focus on winning these games because these are the teams that are going to give them the biggest test of these young pitcher's seasons.  Latos, for the most part, has gone untested against a team with the kind of lineup that the Cardinals boast with guys like Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols.

If this team can take two of three from the Cardinals in St. Louis, I think it will open a lot of eyes not only in San Diego, but nationally as well.  It will show that this team may be a force to be reckoned with in 2010. 

Not only that, but it will give them a boost as they head back to San Diego to take on the Chicago Cubs for three games before having to face the Cardinals again, this time at Petco Park.

Not only do the pitcher's have a lot of pressure on them, but so should the Padres' young offense, who has also been impressive of late.  Will Venable is swinging a hot bat, Kyle Blanks is slowly but surely getting his swing in order, Adrian is doing what he does best, Kevin Kouzmanoff has been swinging the bat well over the past few weeks and had an .846 batting average in the series against Milwaukee. 

This is the kind of offense that Padres have been clamoring about over the past few seasons.

This team is scoring runs, and not just one and two a game—they've averaged over six runs per game over their past 15 games, including a season-high 13 runs against the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 11.

If you're a Padre fan, the next nine games should have your full and complete attention, because this team just might show you a thing or two.

Additional news and notes: According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Yankees will probably not re-sign Hideki Matsui.  I'm just curious if any of you fans would have any interest at all in him, or do you think he's too expensive?

I believe I posted this yesterday, but I'll do it again today.  John Smoltz refused a minor league assignment and could be traded by the Red Sox.  I know there are teams in need of bullpen help, but Smoltz has made it clear that he wants to be a starter.  If I'm Kevin Towers, I lob a phone call to Greg Maddux and see if Mad Dog can talk Smoltz into coming to San Diego.  Question is, what would Boston want in return?

Dodgers-almost-had-dream-'pen,-but-balked" target="_blank">Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says the Padres will listen to offers for both Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell after the season is over, but they're less likely to trade either player after the team dealt Jake Peavy to Chicago.

ESPN.com's Jose Arangure Jr reports that the Padres are in fact not interested in signing top international talent Miguel Angel Sano.  They are, however, interested in Edgar Ferreira who is the top Dominican pitcher still unsigned.  The team apparently sent scouts to watch him earlier this week.

ESPN's Keith Law doesn't expect Padres' No. 1 pick Donovan Tate to sign until a few hours prior to Monday's deadline.

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