The Padres and D-backs open their weekend series Friday at Chase Field both well out of first place in the National League West. But a tough 2014 season only helps the clubs look forward as the promise of next year begins to take shape.
Both teams have an opportunity the rest of the way to give young players a chance to show what they can do, and there will be some exciting players on the field in the series opener.
Start on the mound, as San Diego's Odrisamer Despaigne gets the nod against Arizona's Josh Collmenter. The right-hander had a 1.66 ERA as recently as July 26, but has allowed four runs or more in three of his past four starts.
The D-backs have lost six straight.
Despaigne surrendered four first-inning runs last time out against the Cardinals before tossing three innings of one-run ball the rest of the way. The key: keeping the ball down.
"[He] started making pitches," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "The velocity kicked up a little bit, kept the ball down better, worked with a quicker tempo. Those things add up to zeros."
One of the batters Despaigne will face is D-backs outfielder Ender Inciarte. Inciarte's season has been the polar opposite of Despaigne's.
Always able to track down a ball in the outfield, Inciarte at first struggled at the dish, posting a .450 on-base plus slugging percentage in his first 99 plate appearances. He's been on fire since, with a .736 mark in his next 194 plate appearances, and has impressed Arizona manager Kirk Gibson.
"I think it tells you a lot about the kid," Gibson said. "He's kind of developed his game on this stage. He's finding the confidence to continue to make it better and not be scared that -- you get asked to do something and it makes you uncomfortable and it's hard to push through it, but he's really trusted it. To his credit, he's played really well for us."
Padres: Second-half surge
Despite its losing streak, San Diego has been impressive in the season's second half. The Padres are 18-13 since the All-Star break, averaging 4.5 runs per game and hitting .267 overall.
• San Diego is 43-7 this season when scoring at least four runs.
D-backs: Collmenter looks to rebound
Collmenter's last start was his worst of the year, as the right-hander allowed five runs and lasted only four innings against Miami. He's allowed three runs or fewer in seven of his past 10 outings, however, and has a 3.65 ERA in 13 career games (four starts) against San Diego.
The team plans on keeping an eye on his innings the rest of the way.
• Arizona has had eight one-run decisions in its past 10 games.
• D-backs starters have tossed 10 quality starts in their past 15 games.
• The Padres are 45-1 when leading after six innings.