Will Padres look the same upon return to Petco?

Trade rumors grow as playoff odds grow longer by the game

Will Padres look the same upon return to Petco?

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Sunday could be a watershed day in the Padres season.

The Padres will be closing a 10-game homestand Sunday before hitting the road for a 10-game trip to the New York Mets, Miami and Milwaukee.

A win over the Marlins Sunday would give the Padres a 6-3 record on the homestand -- last Sunday's game was rained out --and bring them to within five games of .500 at 47-52.

Right now, the Padres would have to go 35-29 over the rest of the season to reach .500. To get to the 90-win plateau that it might take to make the playoffs as a wildcard, the Padres would have to go 44-20 -- a .688 winning percentage. Miracles have happened before.

But the go/no-go date of the July 31 trading deadline is also rapidly approaching.

Which brings us to the big question: How much will the team that leaves San Diego after Sunday's game change before it returns to Petco Park on Aug. 7?

Trade rumors are flying. Pitchers Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit and outfielders Justin Upton and Will Venable are all free agents at the end of this season and, therefore, prime trade candidates. Coincidentally, Kennedy's next scheduled start is July 31. Will he still be a Padre to make that start?

But such names as pitchers James Shields, Craig Kimbrel and Andrew Cashner are also being tossed around in trade rumors. Sunday might be the last time to see the "real" Padres of 2015.

From the scorecard

Right-handed starter Ian Kennedy won his second straight start Saturday night and continues to get stronger as the season rolls on. After 10 starts, Kennedy had a 6.48 earned run average. But in his last eight starts, the 30-year-old has a 2.53. He is now 6-9 with a 4.58 ERA. Over his last five starts at Petco Park, Kennedy is 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA.

"The last six or seven starts I've been able to command my fastball and things have improved," said Kennedy. "It's good to see hitters foul off pitches ... there's a little extra life in the fastball. I wasn't in rhythm at the start of the season."

-- Right fielder Matt Kemp continues to hammer the ball. He had had two singles and two walks in four plate appearances Saturday night and has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games. He has gone 19-for-46 (.413) with six doubles, five home runs and seven walks during the surge for a .491 on-base percentage, a .870 slugging percentage and a 1.361 OPS.

"Right now, Matt is as mentally tough as anyone in the game," said Padres manager Pat Murphy. "He's been the best player on the field for a while now. The numbers don't even tell the story."

-- Right-handed pitcher Brandon Morrow threw 40 pitches in a 2 1/3-inning rehab assignment for Triple-A El Paso Saturday night at Salt Lake. He allowed two runs on three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Morrow has been on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation since May 3 and had a previous rehab assignment aborted when the pain returned.

-- Right-handed closer Craig Kimbrel successfully converted his 19th straight save opportunity Friday night. It was his 28th success in 29 tries this season. Over his last 23 outings, Kimbrel has 17 saves and has allowed two runs 13 hits, 10 walks and a hit batter with 33 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings -- for an ERA of 0.79.