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Series Preview: Braves at Padres

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The Braves will try to break their string of bad luck at Petco Park this week against the Padres.

Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Prepare to stay up late as the Braves head to the west coast one last time for a three-game series with the Padres at Petco Park, a place the Braves have had trouble winning at in recent history. The Braves have lost seven straight at Petco dating back to 2012.

The Padres aren't supposed to be in fourth place in the NL West, not after the offseason acquisitions they made but yet here they are. This team is supposed to be comfortably ahead of the Dodgers and Giants instead of looking up at them. We've been waiting for this team to fulfill its preseason expectations, but that simply hasn't happened yet and most likely won't with just 44 games left. They are 6-9 in August with a six-game losing streak mixed in.

At least one of those acquisitions, Matt Kemp, has been contributing somewhat. Kemp is hitting .316 in August and brings a nine-game hitting streak into this series; he hit for the cycle on Friday, the first Padres hitter ever to do so. Justin Upton has been inconsistent this year, but just recently had an eight-game hitting streak (not including teammates; see video). Kemp and Jedd Gyorko have been the two hottest hitters over the past week for the Padres, with Gyorko having a pair of 4-RBI games during an eight-game hitting streak.

The Braves are familiar with Tyson Ross and James Shields, whom they will face in this series, but will be getting their first look at right-hander Colin Rea, whose debut was last week. Rea, drafted in 2011, has a 3.38 ERA and 404 strikeouts in 482.2 minor-league innings (STATS), and was the lone Padres representative in the Futures Game this year.

From Minor League Ball:

Rea scuffled a bit in A-ball, being hit hard due to command issues in the Cal League in 2013 (6.07 ERA, 45/39 K/BB in 44 innings). However, he took a huge step forward in '14, with a massive reduction in walks (8.16 BB/9 dropped to 2.4) without loss of strikeouts. His secondary pitches (a curveball, a cutter/slider, and a splitter-change) have improved steadily and his command has been even better this year. Rea now throws four decent pitches for strikes, has a workhorse body, and smooth, consistent mechanics.

He made 12 starts for San Antonio in the Double-A Texas League this spring, posting a miniscule 1.08 ERA in 75 innings with a 60/11 K/BB and just 50 hits allowed. This was enough to get him named to the United States team for the 2015 Futures Game. Sent to Triple-A El Paso in July, he posted a 4.39 ERA in 27 innings and a 20/12 K/BB with 29 hits, credible performance for the pro-hitting Pacific Coast League.

Scouting report from Baseball America:

Rea's breakout season has included a spot in the Futures Game in Cincinnati, where he threw 10 pitches. Even in that short stint, he showed his full repertoire, including a fastball in the 91-93 mph range to go with a curveball, changeup and cutter. His strikeout rate has declined this year from previous seasons (7.1 K/9 in 2015 vs. 7.6 in '14 and 8.7 in '13), even as his effectiveness has increased.

The key for the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Rea is that he throws downhill, staying tall in his delivery and keeping the ball in the ballpark when he allows contact. He's yielded just three home runs in 103 innings this season, and he's been able to locate both his fastball and mid-80s cutter effectively to neutralize lefthanded hitters. He's limited them to a .188 average and no home runs in 186 at-bats over two levels.

Rea's curveball is just serviceable though it occasionally has tight rotation. His split-finger fastball, which he uses as a changeup, gives him a solid fourth pitch and another weapon against lefthanded hitters. So while nothing grades as a true plus pitch, Rea has four pitches he can throw for strikes. He said he's tweaked his mechanics this year to add a bit of deception and hide the ball from hitters, and it's worked out well for him.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Monday, August 17, 10:10 p.m. ET

ATL: Williams Perez
2015: 11 starts, 4-3 W-L, 4.21 ERA, 4.76 FIP, 4.35 BB/9, 5.80 K/9

SDP: Colin Rea
2015: 1 start, 5 IP, 7 hits, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

Tuesday, August 18, 10:10 p.m. ET

ATL: Matt Wisler
2015: 10 starts, 5-2 W-L, 4.74 ERA, 4.64 FIP, 2.84 BB/9, 5.84 K/9

SDP: James Shields
2015: 25 starts, 8-5 W-L, 3.89 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 3.18 BB/9, 9.84 K/9

Wednesday, August 19, 3:40 p.m. ET

ATL: Julio Teheran
2015: 24 starts, 8-6 W-L, 4.44 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 3.25 BB/9, 7.69 K/9

SDP: Tyson Ross
2015: 25 starts, 8-9 W-L, 3.40 ERA, 2.91 FIP, 4.14 BB/9, 9.58 K/9