Cubs-Padres Preview

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SAN DIEGO -- With a rotation featuring Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester it's easy for Kyle Hendricks to get overlooked.

But not by Chicago Cubs manager Joe Madden.

"Everybody talks about everybody else by Kyle leads the National League in ERA right now," Madden said. "If we would score him some runs, this guy would have a tremendous won-loss record. No one has pitched better than him. No one."

It's the right-handed Hendricks (11-7, 2.16) on the hill for the Cubs against the San Diego Padres.

The Cubs go for the three-game sweep before motoring north to play the Los Angeles Dodgers in what could be a playoff preview.

Chicago will have to battle LA's mind-numbing traffic after the matinee, getaway game. But Madden is seldom stressed when Hendricks in on the mound.

He's allowed three or fewer runs in 16 straight starts, the longest streak this year in the majors. And since June 19, Hendricks is 7-1 with a nifty 1.24 ERA.

"He has command of his pitches, he's added a few wrinkles and his confidence could not be higher," Madden said. "Impossible."

While the Cubs have the NL ERA leader in Hendricks the Padres counter with Paul Clemens (2-2, 4.82).

Clemens will attempt to navigate the potent Cubs lineup by leaning on his curveball and hoping he can pinpoint his fastball.

The right-handed Clemens needs to trust his offspeed offering, according to Padres manager Andy Green.

"We want him to rip the curve ball off a little bit more," Green said. "When you look at the velo on his curve, when it is effective, it is upper 70s.

"Early in his last number of starts he is flipping it in there at 70, 71, and it just doesn't have the aggression, doesn't have the bite to get the swings and misses it can get."

Clemens, who was claimed off waivers on July 1, didn't figure in the Padres win in his last outing. He worked five innings and allowed three runs on eight hits and three walks against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Green said Clemens is also tinkering with his fastball.

"Just continuing to refine his fastball command; that is something that is going to be a journey for him his entire career," Green said. "He's not the only pitcher to have that."

Instead Clemens' money pitch is his curveball but he has to throw it with conviction.

"If he rips it off more effectively he is going to have the opportunity to use it more," Green said. "If he kind of flips it up there he doesn't have quite the command of it."

Green compared Clemens to the lefty Drew Pomeranz, the Padres' All-Star this summer before he was peddled to the Boston Red Sox.

"That was one of the things Pomeranz was able to do," Green said. "If he wanted it in the strikes zone he put it there. If he didn't want it in the strikes zone, he would put it there. That is the next step of the curveball development for Paul."