PHOENIX — This was supposed to be the easy part. The Diamondbacks on Sunday wrapped up a stretch of 10 games against teams with losing records but only won half those contests.
The Padres capped the seemingly favorable stretch Sunday by finishing off a three-game sweep with a 5-4 win. It was the second time since the All-Star break the D-backs were swept by an opponent with a losing record and the second time in two months the Padres swept the D-backs at Chase Field after having never done so previously.
The D-backs did score more runs Sunday than in the previous two games combined, thanks largely to Aaron Hill’s two-run home run in the eighth inning, but it wasn’t enough to salvage a game.
“Overall, our guys played a pretty good game today,” Gibson said. “They fought hard, and we weren’t able to finish the comeback.”
Getting swept by one of the NL West’s non-contenders makes their pursuit of the division’s best that much more difficult. With each loss, the pressure to win every game mounts and the opportunities to get back in the hunt dwindle.
The D-backs now trail the first place San Francisco Giants by 7 1/2 games — though they had not begun their Sunday game when the D-backs’ ended — and the second place Dodgers by five. In the Wild Card standings, the D-backs sit 6 1/2 games back of the second spot.
The D-backs do still have 34 games to play, with 15 of those games against either the Giants or Dodgers. Those head to head matchups could be the D-backs saving grace.
While some prognosticators are prepared to close the book on the D-backs’ season and proclaim it an underachieving effort, the D-backs maintain unwavering belief they can still charge into the playoffs.
“We’re going to continue to fight and play better baseball, and we’ll see where we end up,” D-backs center fielder Chris Young said. “We still feel like we have a chance, and anything’s possible. I’ve seen guys come back from bigger deficits than we’re in right now.”
Gibson offered an example from his own career. With eight games to play in the 1987 season, Gibson and the Detroit Tigers were 3 1/2 games out of first place. They ended up winning with AL East by two games. That assures Gibson his team has enough time to capture a playoff spot.
“Crazier things have happened, so we just keep pushing ahead,” Gibson said. “We’ve got play better.”
Having now lost six straight games to San Diego, all at home, Gibson can’t pinpoint why the D-backs have struggled against the Padres recently. It’s a combination of things, he explained, and Sunday it was bad starting pitching.
Trevor Cahill allowed two runs in the first inning Sunday and four total in just 3 2/3 innings. It could have been much worse, though, as Cahill twice loaded the bases only to see all three runners stranded.
“I didn’t throw the ball real well,” Cahill said. “When I made good pitches, it seemed like (Padres hitters) still kind of found a hole, so that makes it tough. I wasn’t attacking the strike zone.”
Despite the short outing, Cahill still tallied six strikeouts — but he also walked four batters. Reliever Bryan Shaw allowed the seventh-inning run that was ultimately the difference.
“I think we pressed pretty hard today,” Gibson said. “When you get in streaks like this, sometimes it doesn’t seem fair. There’s really no rhyme nor reason, it’s just the way it worked out for us.
“What are you going to do? Are you going to shut down? It was a frustrating loss. We’re going to go home, we’re going to have a good meal tonight, we’re going to come back with a good attitude and play hard tomorrow. We can’t do anything more than that.”