The question for the Padres as they head into Wednesday's game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field is one that's also being asked around baseball: Can anyone keep Anthony Rizzo in the ballpark?
The reigning National League Player of the Week continued his power surge with two home runs in Tuesday's series opener with San Diego, establishing a career high with his 24th homer of the season in the third inning and belting another solo shot in the seventh. Rizzo has smashed eight homers in his last 12 games to storm into the National League lead.
The slugging first baseman is also batting .467 (7-for-15) with five homers and six RBIs since the All-Star break.
"You want to keep having good at-bats and not try to hit home runs, just try to hit the ball hard," Rizzo said after his previous multi-homer effort last Friday. "Good things tend to happen."
The Padres will ask right-hander Ian Kennedy to make sure more good things don't happen for Rizzo on Wednesday. History is on Kennedy's side, as he's held Rizzo to a .154 batting average (2-for-13) in his career.
Kennedy has been pitching well in July after posting a 5.46 ERA in five June starts. Though he struggled in his last outing, allowing four runs on six hits over five innings against the Mets last Friday, he is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA (six earned runs in 26 innings pitched) in four starts this month.
"He's pitching great," Padres manager Bud Black said of Kennedy after his July 12 start against the Dodgers. "He really had command of the outside corner to right-handed hitters. I thought that was the big difference tonight. He shut them down."
Kennedy has made nine career starts against Chicago, going 4-2 with a 5.80 ERA, though he was very good in his start against the Cubs earlier this season, allowing a run on two hits over six innings in a win on May 25.
The Cubs will counter with rookie right-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who will be making his second big league start. In his Major League debut against Cincinnati on July 8, Wada turned in five strong innings, yielding an unearned run on five hits in a no-decision.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said on Tuesday that Wada isn't making a spot start like he was on July 8; Chicago hopes he can continue pitching well to keep himself in the mix moving forward after the trade sending Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland earlier this month opened vacancies in the starting rotation.
"We'd like it to be for the foreseeable future," Hoyer said. "We have some options down there [at Triple-A Iowa] ... [but] we didn't [call Wada up] for one game. We're hoping it's for the foreseeable future."
Padres: Solarte to be utilized all around infield
Utility infielder Yangervis Solarte, acquired in the trade that sent third baseman Chase Headley to the Yankees on Tuesday, will be seeing playing time at multiple positions on the infield, according to Black.
"He's a pretty steady all-around player," Black said on Tuesday. "We'll utilize him around the diamond. I like the fact that he's versatile. I like the fact that he's playing well this year."
The 27-year-old Solarte held his own in 75 games for New York this season, batting .254 with 14 doubles, six home runs and 31 RBIs. Solarte played in 66 games at third base, 17 at second and five at shortstop. Black did not say that Solarte would be Headley's replacement as an everyday third baseman.
Cubs: Alcantara to see more playing time
Arismendy Alcantara will see more playing time with the Cubs designating second baseman Darwin Barney for assignment on Tuesday.
Alcantara, Chicago's No. 7 prospect according to MLB.com, made his Major League debut on July 9 and is batting .282 through his first nine games. He went 1-for-4 with a homer in Tuesday's win over the Padres.
"It's time for 'Mendy' to play," Hoyer said Tuesday. "He'll play second, he'll play center. I think he'll be in the lineup every day. One of the things we feel strongly about is that when we do bring guys up, they're here to play. We're not going to bring up these guys who are part of our future to share time on the bench."
• The Padres are trying to avoid their 11th road series loss this season (currently 3-10-1 in series away from Petco Park in 2014).
• Starlin Castro and Junior Lake have fared well against Kennedy in their careers. Castro is 7-for-23 (.304) with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs against the right-hander. Lake is 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run and two RBIs.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.