SAN DIEGO -- The Washington Nationals kick off a four-game series with the San Diego Padres on Thursday. That means one of baseball's hottest players will be in America's Finest City.

"It's just his energy," Padres manager Andy Green said. "The way he flies down the line, the way he flies around from first to third. He never takes a play off, and he's always locked in. I think it's those kinds of things fans appreciate a great deal. It's fun to show up and watch him play baseball."

Is Green talking about Nationals All-Star Bryce Harper?

Nope. Try the Padres' Cory Spangenberg.

While Harper is on the shelf with a bum knee, Spangenberg continues to shine.

"He's done a great job for us," Green said.

Spangenberg remade his swing, ditching his line-drive-based approach. Instead, he is shooting for the fences. His bat angle is different when making contact, and his results have flipped, too.

After hitting three homers in his past four games, Spangenberg has already has set a career high with 12. In the second half of the season, he has become one of the Padres' more reliable sluggers.

"When he stays committed to a small zone, he can take a very aggressive pass, and when he squares the baseball up, he is very good about that," Green said. "His struggles are when he gets above the zone and behind the zone."

Spangenberg leads a lineup facing former Padre Edwin Jackson (3-2, 3.86 ERA). Jackson went 5-6 for San Diego last year and he could be a comforting sight for his former teammates.

Jackson, who has won two of his past three starts, has gone 0-6 with a 6.63 ERA in his career against the Padres (54-66). However, he was keen against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, recording six quality innings after escaping an early jam. He allowed one run on five hits in a 3-1 win.

"(It) was definitely one of those 'dig deep and see what you're made of' days," Jackson told MLB.com. "I was fortunate enough to come out with good results and also help out the bullpen at the same time with a solid six innings. It's one of those days when you really don't have your best stuff."

While the Nationals' best player, Harper, is idle, Green agrees that Jhoulys Chacin (11-8, 4.06) has quite a task in front of him Thursday. Chacin is 3-2 in his career against the Nationals with a 3.43 ERA.

He won three of his past four decisions, although he didn't get one his last time out on Saturday versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. Chacin went five innings and surrendered only one run on four hits against a vaunted offense. He will see another one when he opposes the Nationals (71-47), though Washington fell 3-2 Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.

"That's a really good lineup, it's a long lineup with a lot of really good players that makes it a really good team," Green said. "Obviously, Bryce is out now and that changes it a little bit. But Daniel Murphy is as dangerous as anybody in the game.

"They got speed still. They got power. They got hitters. They have been the best team in the NL East for some time now."

The rebuilding Padres don't mind playing David to the Nationals' Goliath. San Diego recently played the surging Dodgers tough when talking one game in a three-game set. The Padres are also coming off a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, capped by a 3-0 win Wednesday.

"It will be a fun challenge for our guys," Green said of facing Washington. "I like how we played in a hostile park at Dodger Stadium. I expect us to play just as good here, if not better."