Sept. 20 MLB Picks and Preview — Arizona Diamondbacks (78-75) at San Diego Padres (69-84)

(Eric Hosmer photo courtesy Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Friday, Sept. 20, Petco Park, San Diego, Calif., 10:10 p.m. EDT.

It could very well be the last stand for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who may need to win out starting with Friday night’s series opener against the San Diego Padres and get plenty of help in order to claim a wild-card spot in the National League.

Kelly seeks back-to-back winning starts for first time since June

The Diamondbacks (78-75) are five games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL’s second wild-card spot with nine to play, but they must also overtake three other teams in addition to the Brewers down the stretch.

Merrill Kelly (11-14, 4.49 ERA) will try to start them on that path as he seeks back-to-back winning starts for the first time since a three-start run from June 2-12. The 30-year-old rookie is coming off one of his best starts of the year, scattering three hits and two walks in seven innings while outdueling Anthony DeScalfani in a 1-0 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday.

“Honestly I think it’s just mentality,” Kelly told the club’s official website about his late-season improvements as he’s conceded only three runs in 20 innings over his last three starts. “Going through that little skid there, I was trying to feel some different things, trying to find some different things rather than just going out and competing, and I think that’s probably been the biggest difference.”

Kelly has gone 2-1 with a 5.03 ERA in four starts versus the Padres this year, but the most recent one Sept. 3 began his turnaround when he limited them to three hits while striking out nine in seven innings of a 2-1 victory. Eric Hosmer is 4 for 10 with a pair of doubles versus the righty.

Despite the late-season surge, Kelly is still one loss from becoming just the seventh rookie this century to lose 15 games in a season. Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull became the sixth on Sept. 12.

Lauer looking to get back on track for Padres

Eric Lauer‘s second year in the majors has had its ups and downs, but the left-hander has a chance to finish above .500 after going 6-7 as a rookie in 2018. Lauer (8-9, 4.60) had a personal three-game winning streak end Saturday in Coors Field, where he was knocked around for six runs — four of them earned — in 2 1-3 innings of an 11-10 defeat.

“He’s just got to execute,” manager Andy Green told the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding Lauer, who has a ghastly 18.82 lifetime ERA at Coors Field. “There’s no magic bullet to fire. You can’t just make this just happen. He’s got to step on the mound and execute. … We’ll be aware of this going into next season, and we’ll figure out we have to do to put our team in position to succeed.”

Pitching at the spacious confines of Petco Park has treated the southpaw much better — Lauer is 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 13 starts, and he has held opponents to three or fewer runs in 11 of them.

Lauer is 1-2 with a 4.24 ERA in three starts versus Arizona this season but has not faced them since tossing seven innings of one-run ball in a 4-1 Padres victory May 22. He has split four decisions while posting a 2.86 ERA in five career matchups.

San Diego (69-84) wrapped up a seven-game road trip with one win after a 5-1 loss at Milwaukee on Thursday. The Padres totaled just five runs in their four-game series at Miller Park while striking out 52 times in 123 at-bats.

Notable Trends

The Padres are:

  • 1-7 in their last eight games vs. right-handed starters.
  • 0-5 in their last five during game 1 of a series.
  • 3-9 in their last 12 vs. above-.500 teams.

The Diamondbacks are:

  • 8-1 in their last nine games vs. NL West teams.
  • 4-0 in Kelly’s last four starts vs. NL West teams.
  • 14-5 in their last 19 games following an off day.

*****5-Star Pick*****

Padres UNDER 4 runs (-125)

Though Kelly is not a high-volume strikeout pitcher — he averages 7.5 per nine innings — San Diego’s lack of contact in its series against Milwaukee gives the look of a team in a collective funk at the plate.

The Padres also went 0 for 18 with runners in scoring position versus the Brewers, part of an eight-game stretch in which they’re hitting .180 (11 for 61) in such situations. San Diego has been held to four or fewer runs in eight of its 13 games versus Arizona this season.

****4-Star Pick****

UNDER 8 runs (-110)

Another confidence pick in Kelly’s form, coupled with Lauer’s solid track record at Petco. It was surprising to see Green light into his left-hander after Saturday’s loss at Colorado, but it may be one of those instances where a kick in the butt is a step forward for the second-year southpaw.

***3-Star Picks***

Diamondbacks ML (-105)

The pick is to ride Kelly’s recent form, which also includes a personal three-game winning streak versus division rivals. The Padres’ anemic offense in Milwaukee also contributes to this pick, something the Diamondbacks know all about after scoring 14 runs in a nine-game stretch before plating 18 in their just-completed three-game series with Miami.

Diamondbacks -0.5 runs first 5 innings (+125)

Kelly has been hit or miss early in his four starts versus San Diego, which is why this pick gets only middling confidence. He has been lights out in two of them, shutting out the Padres in the first five innings. In the other two, he gave up four runs before the game was three innings old.

But his recent improvements coupled with San Diego’s offensive struggles make this worth a play with a shot at plus-money.

UNDER 4.5 runs first 5 innings (-115)

This pick is backing Lauer to pitch to his better home form after a disastrous outing at Coors Field. The lefty has allowed two or fewer runs in the first five innings in six of his last nine starts at Petco, and did get the better of Kelly in a matchup there earlier this season.

Diamondbacks 3-way ML first 3 innings (+121)

Removing the three-game series at Coors Field, the Padres have scored exactly two runs in the first three innings of their last six games — and that came on a two-run homer by Seth Meijas-Brean that also accounted for their offense in Wednesday’s win over Milwaukee.

Kelly has already shown the ability to shut down the Padres early (though San Diego has shown an ability to get to him), and the hedge is he picks up where he left off as the Diamondbacks get him an early run or two.

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