Padres host Giants in first series of 2nd half

The San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants meet on Friday, in places they never dreamed.

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants meet on Friday, in places they never dreamed.

San Diego is at home in Petco Park where the views are always grand. But with the Padres (38-50) in full-throttle, rebuild-mode, they didn’t envision looking down at another NL West team.

Instead there sits fifth-place San Francisco (34-56) as it grabs for an elusive ripcord.

The free-falling Giants are in the division cellar and are showing no signs of life. They enter their three-game set with the Padres after getting swept at home by the Miami Marlins.

San Francisco had to let that marinate during the All-Star break, a perfect reminder of what a sour season it has been for the recent three-time world champions. Manager Bruce Bochy’s team is on pace for 101 losses; only one other Giants squad (1985) has finished with more than 100 defeats.

But righty Johnny Cueto (6-7. 4.51) is on the hill and that could pay off against the Padres’ young lineup. It’s mostly a collection of rookies and trying to decipher the crafty Cueto’s release point might be a challenge.

Cueto has won eight of his 12 lifetime decisions against the Padres, pitching to a 2.93 ERA. In five outings at Petco, he’s gone 3-2 with a 3.21 ERA.

The Giants are also eager to see Cueto shine for multiple reasons. With the Giants easing into their own reconstruction period, the veteran Cueto could be an enticing target for contending teams.

Cueto’s value doesn’t match this time last year, when he was 13-1. He was rocked last Friday, when allowing six runs and six hits over six innings. That came on the heels of him missing a start with an inner ear infection.

The savvy Cueto hears the chatter about him possibly being on the move. But he remains fond of San Francisco.

“What I’m thinking is I want to stay here,” he told Mlb.com. “But at the same time, if they decide they want to do that, that’s their decision.”

In Clayton Richard (5-8, 4.66), the Giants will see a refreshed southpaw coming off a solid start. In Philadelphia last Friday, he spun six innings of one-run ball, driven from the game more so by the rain than the Phillies’ bats.

When facing the Giants, Richard is 6-6 with a 3.98 ERA.

He’s also another interesting trade card the Padres might play at some point. It’s no mystery the Padres are looking forward while building around rookies, among them catcher Austin Hedges and right fielder Hunter Renfroe.

It’s expected that Renfroe, who leads the team with 16 homers, will return to the lineup. He skipped the first-half finale with a sore neck.

Padres skeptics were rubbing their necks after watching San Diego drop 30 of its first 45 games. Since, they’re an admirable 23-20 and have won two straight series, both on the road.

“We still have a long way to go to be the type of team that we want to be,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “(But) there’s been a lot of positives from our young kids.”

Richard, 33, isn’t among the peach-fuzz brigade.

Neither is the 31-year-old Cueto for the Giants.

That means Friday’s matchup between them should draw interest from teams looking to get better, instead of younger.

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