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The Target: Cubs vs. Padres

The Cubs are soaring. What the heck are the last-place Padres supposed to do about it? (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

We’re running out of ways to say the Cubs are off to the best start since … the invention of the wheel? The very dawn of time? At 24-6 and winners of seven straight games, the Cubs seemingly couldn’t be more ready to take on a last-place opponent.

Might they be staggered a bit, though, after Sunday’s 13-inning finale against the Nationals, in which four relievers logged eight (scoreless) innings?

Probably not. They likelier will be buoyed by the ongoing love affair with the Wrigley crowd, the immense gratification of a four-game sweep of the Nats and, of course, Javy Baez’s thrilling walk-off homer on Sunday.

It’s got to be easy to show up and play when your team can do no wrong.

THE MATCHUPS

Monday: Jon Lester (3-1, 1.58) vs. Cesar Vargas (0-1, 1.10), 7:05 p.m., CSN.

Tuesday: Kyle Hendricks (2-2, 3.10) vs. Colin Rea (3-1, 3.82), 7:05 p.m., WPWR.

Wednesday: John Lackey (4-1, 4.02) vs. Drew Pomeranz (3-3, 2.12), 7:05 p.m., CSN.

Joe Maddon will be counting on Lester to go deep into the opener of this series and lighten the bullpen’s load. Hendricks has given up only one run over his last two starts, both victories. Lackey? Wind him up and let him go.

Pomeranz is the only Padres starter in this series who has faced the Cubs before. He split a pair of starts against them in 2012 when he was with the Rockies.

THE OPPONENT

The 13-19 Padres are deficient in certain areas of the game. Anything that involves wielding a baseball bat comes to mind. No National League team strikes out more.

They aren’t nearly as wretched as they appeared in their opening series of the season, when they were outscored 25-0 in three home games against the Dodgers. But, really, who could maintain that sort of wretchedness?

San Diego has won two series against the Rockies since then, and one each against the Pirates, Dodgers and Mets. We’re not talking about a total pushover here.

Matt Kemp and Wil Myers are the dangerous guys in the lineup. Manage their at-bats and the rest should be easy enough.

ON/OFF TARGET

On: Kris Bryant. He has hit safely in 13 of 14 games and, more important, is making a lot of solid contact. The long balls and RBIs-in-bunches should be coming soon.

Off: Jayson Heyward. Still no homers and only five extra-base hits for Heyward, whose average has sagged to .212. Yet his two-hit game on Sunday might’ve cracked open the door to a successful May. He owes his teammates about 1,000 beers for picking him up.

On: Tommy La Stella. Raise your hand if you had Tommy Big Bat’s OPS above 1.100 at this point of the season. To this point, he has been the ultimate role player and done nothing but build the confidence of his manager and teammates.

Off: Jake Arrieta. Wait, what? Look, he flailed his way through a five-inning outing on Sunday, allowing three runs and throwing a trio of wild pitches. It was pretty ugly. He probably deserved to take a rarer-than-rare “L.” His next start will be very interesting.

On: Adam Warren. Who doesn’t love this guy? In 11 outings out of the bullpen, Warren has been touched for a run only once. He was clutch in the clincher against the Nats, shutting them down in the ninth and 10th innings.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com