There are three contenders in the National League West: the division-leading San Francisco Giants, second-place Los Angeles Dodgers and third-place San Diego Padres.
And there are two also-rans: the fourth-place Colorado Rockies and last-place Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Padres will try to makeup ground on the Giants and Dodgers when they play host to the Rockies in a four-game series that starts Thursday night.
While the Giants are 15-4 thus far against the Rockies and Diamondbacks and the Dodgers are 19-4 vs. Colorado and Arizona, the Padres own just a 12-9 mark against the NL West's worst -- 6-3 against the Diamondbacks and 6-6 against the Rockies.
Over their next 19 games, the Padres play both the Rockies and Diamondbacks seven times.
Opportunity is knocking. So is the potential of embarrassment.
Since the Rockies own the worst road record in baseball at 11-38, it would seem the odds heavily favor the Padres.
Not so fast.
The Rockies went into the All-Star break by winning the final two games of a three-game series in San Diego.
"That was certainly not the way we wanted to end the first half," Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.
Meanwhile, Rockies manager Bud Black, a former Padres manager, said of those two victories, "This was a great way to go into the break. We won these games by playing good baseball."
The Padres enter the Colorado series coming off a two-game split with the visiting Oakland A's, who took the finale 10-4 on Wednesday.
The Thursday pitching matchup features Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland (1-5, 4.20 ERA) and Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove (6-7, 3.13).
Freeland, 28, has a 1.473 WHIP and a .294 opponents' batting average in 11 starts this season. He is 0-3 in his last three starts, although he has given up only seven runs on 17 hits and two walks with 13 strikeouts in 18 innings -- good for a 3.50 ERA and a 1.056 WHIP.
He is 0-1 with a 8.31 ERA, a 2.192 WHIP and a .385 OBA in two starts against the Padres this year -- a no-decision on June 16 in Denver and a loss at San Diego on July 9. Freeland has struggled on the road this season, going 0-3 with a 5.06 ERA in six starts.
He has a 3-4 career record against the Padres in 14 appearances (12 starts) with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP.
Musgrove will be making his third appearance of the season against the Rockies. Both those starts were at Petco Park and ended in a shutout ... one for the Padres and one for the Rockies. Musgrove fired seven scoreless innings and fanned 11 in a 3-0 win on May 19, but he took a 3-0 loss on July 10 after giving up two runs (one earned) in 4 1/3 innings.
Musgrove, who threw the first no-hitter in Padres history back on April 9 at Texas, is 1-1 with a 4.11 ERA over his past three starts. He earned a victory at Miami on Friday after allowing two runs on six hits in six innings. He walked one and fanned four.
--Field Level Media