Montreal Expos (66-62) at San Diego Padres (49-79)

The Montreal Expos come into town after losing two in a row to Los Angeles, including yesterday's tough one run loss. While the Padres won the series against the Mets primarily due to outstanding pitching.

Game One

RHP Brian Lawrence (6-14, 4.54) and RHP Tomo Ohka (8-10, 4.58)

If you look at the won-loss record and ERA, most fans would say, "Bad year." Well, yes and no. BLaw will never overpower you. If he throws his 4-seamer (which he rarely does), he tops out about 87-88 mph. When you lose your slider for more than a month and that is your "out" pitch you are going to get hit, and BLaw was hit hard. He has had a terrific August allowing only 4 runs in 3 starts. That said, BLaw is 0-3 against Montreal with a 9.24 ERA in 3 tries. Vladimir Guerrero has hit him particularly hard (.571, 1 HR, 5 RBI).

Ohka will not scare you with his stuff but he keeps his team in games. The Padres have not had much experience with Ohka but he did hold them to 3 runs over 8 innings earlier this season. Hopefully, the Padre bats will heat up facing a guy they have seen before.

Game Two

RHP Adam Eaton (7-9, 4.41) and RHP Javier Vazquez (11-8, 3.44)

Eaton scuffled in his last two outings, with the last game in Florida he went 3 1/3 innings and allowed 4 runs. Afterward, Eaton said that he was the most inaccurate he had been as a major leaguer. Look for Eaton to atone for his last outing here. Most of the Expos have never faced Eaton, and after getting a heavy dose of the soft stuff that BLaw throws, the 94-96 MPH gas that Eaton throws is bound to look even faster.

In short, Vazquez is the ace of Expos staff. I have witnessed his domination of the Padres firsthand last season, and I can tell you when he is on, he looks incredible. Both Mark Loretta and Phil Nevin have had success against him. Vazquez and his wife recently celebrated the birth of their first child on August 20th. The Padres are hoping that will be a distraction.

Game Three

RHP Kevin Jarvis (4-5, 5.33) and RHP T.J. Tucker (0-1, 5.27)

Jarvis had a great start his last outing against the Mets, allowing only 2 runs in 7 IP. However, with Padres offense being fairly anemic of late, it took late inning heroics by Phil Nevin to get him off the hook for the loss. What I noticed in his last start he was throwing softer. Jarvis' fastball routinely is in the low 90s, but in his last outing he was throwing in the upper 80s with the occasional 91-92 MPH fastball. This appeared to create more sink and induced more groundball outs.

Thomas John Tucker, now I know why he goes by his initials. Tommy John is now more famous because of his surgery than his pitching prowess, and I think any pitcher would rather not have a name too similar. Tucker has been primarily reliever with the Expos, but this will be his third start of season, as the Expos are auditioning him for the role of the 5th starter. He has not been able to go very deep in ball games, so the Padres would be well served to be patient.

Batters to Watch

Sean Burroughs has been smoking the ball since returning to the lineup. He hit a booming double to right center yesterday that narrowly missed being a homer, I estimate the distance at about 385 feet. He also went into third with a stand-up triple, if his ankle is bothering him you certainly could not tell on that play.

Vladimir Guerrero has rarely met a pitch he did not like. Yet he does not strike out as much as you would expect from such a free swinger. In fact, he has never K'd 100 times in a season, and this is a guy prior to this season had hit 30+ HRs 5 seasons in a row. Now you know why this guy tops many GMs free agency wish lists.

Other Notes

Ramon Vazquez could not have picked a worse time to get cold. With September call-ups right around the corner and Khalil Greene coming up, Ramon could be riding some serious pine. People have been critical of Mark Kotsay because he has not performed the way he did last season. This guy is hurting, yet he puts it on the line every night. The catch he made in center saved Jake Peavy's bacon, and the greeting Peavy gave him outside the dugout said it all. Kotsay could have played it safe and saved his back the discomfort of diving, but this guy only knows one way to play, ALL OUT. When guys like Juan Gonzalez go on the DL with a hang nail, I appreciate the effort Kotsay gives out there every day.

Kim Lewis can be reached at geckointhebox@yahoo.com

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