LOS ANGELES -- The San Diego Padres might be the most forlorn team in the major leagues.
They were the odd team out in the National League West in 2017. The Los Angeles Dodgers set the division ablaze in the summer. The Arizona Diamondbacks have clinched an NL wild card. The Colorado Rockies are hanging onto a wild-card spot, and the San Francisco Giants have been a spectacle thanks to a miserable season so soon after winning three World Series titles.
The Padres may be a team to watch in the future. They close their penultimate series at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday after posting a 43-38 home record, their first winning season at home since 2014.
They hit 89 home runs at Petco to set a franchise record. They have hit 187 home runs total, also a franchise record. They are
The Padres are 70-88, but they have played their best baseball in the second half. The Dodgers series is their eighth straight against a team with a winning record, and they won or split four of the previous seven. They took three of four against the Dodgers earlier this month and hit .289 in the process, though they have dropped the first two in Los Angeles this week.
The team has just a handful of players over 30, such as the Wednesday starter, Clayton Richard (8-14, 4.63 ERA).
Five rookies have played well enough to warrant Rookie of the Year votes. The daily lineup has usually included Carlos Asuaje (.271), Manuel Margot (.269, 13 home runs) and Hunter Renfroe (25 home runs). Dinelson Lamet (7-8, 4.57 ERA) is in the rotation, and he had a 3.08 ERA in a recent span of 11 starts, while Jose Torres has been a solid arm in the bullpen (7-4, 4.28 ERA in 61 games).
Add Brad Hand, Wil Myers, Richard, a few other young players and several prospects in the system, and one can make a case for the Padres becoming a factor in 2018 and beyond.
Renfroe is an exciting player. He broke the franchise record for homers in a season previously held by legendary Padre Nate Colbert. Margot has power, speed and plays fine defense.
"Those guys are the future of this organization," Padres manager Andy Green said. "Learning on the job is a lot better than learning in Triple-A. There are things you're only going to find out at this level, by playing. You're forced to make adjustments that you're not forced to make at Triple-A."
Renfroe said soon after becoming a regular, "There's nothing like facing a major league pitcher. Once you get out there, you start making adjustments in-game or in an at-bat. You're working out the kinks then. You know you're going to get your opportunity every day, and you go out there and work as hard as you can.
"The more you play, the more you're going to start figuring out this game."
Richard is making his sixth start against the Dodgers this season, having gone 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA in the previous five. In his career, he has made 24 appearances versus the Dodgers (22 starts), producing a 7-6 record and a 4.17 ERA.
He will face Rich Hill in a battle of former University of Michigan left-handers. Hill (11-8, 3.50 ERA) needs a win to match his career high set last season. He has made seven career starts against the Padres, going 3-3 with a 3.76 ERA, including 2-0, 1.50 ERA in three starts vs. San Diego this year.
"We wouldn't be in the situation we're in without Rich," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said of Hill. "He started slow because of the blisters, but once he solved that, he's been as effective as anyone in the rotation."
The Dodgers (101-57) still have something to play for over the final four regular-season games. They hold a 2 1/2-game advantage over the Cleveland Indians (98-59) for the best record in the majors and home field throughout the postseason.