Padres go 4-2 in Week 14, led by dominant starting pitching
Jul 2, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Tyson Ross (38) reacts after getting doused by starting pitcher Andrew Cashner (34) as Cashner laughs after the Padres completed a three game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds with a complete game shutout from Ross at Petco Park. The Padres won 3-0.
The Diamondbacks are still behind the Padres in the standings, but San Diego was far from impressive while dropping two of three to arguably the worst statistical team in all of baseball. The home team managed to score just four runs over the weekend against a inferior pitching staff, giving their starters virtually no room for error versus a better-than-you’d-think Arizona offensive attack.
Let’s start with the good: the pitching. They came in with a definite plan and executed to perfection. It was clear that San Diego didn’t want to let Paul Goldschmidt beat them, and by holding him hitless in five at bats (and walking him seven times), they were able to avoid the budding superstar. All three starters found a groove at one point or another, finishing the series with a 2.37 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. In an ideal world, the strikeout-to-walk rate would be greater (1.38), but with the majority of those free passes coming to Goldschmidt, it’s hard to complain. Eric Stults and Tyson Ross were impressive, but it was Odrisamer Despaigne who once again stole the show. In his second career appearance, Despaigne allowed three of the first four men to reach base but showed tremendous poise in buckling down and limiting the damage from that point forward. His low strikeout rate might be an issue down the road, but as long as he is pitching in spacious Petco Park, pitching to contact is a viable strategy. The bullpen routinely refused to allow Arizona’s late game lead to expand, as they pitched eight shutout innings and gave up only four hits in the process. Huston Street emerged from the ‘pen for the first time in 10 days, but he didn’t show one bit of rust. He mowed down the three Diamondbacks he faced in just 10 pitches while nailing down his 21st save in 21 opportunities. Is there any question who will represent San Diego in the midsummer classic this season?
Sometimes poor hitting can be explained by top-notch pitching, but that simply isn’t the case in Arizona. The Diamondbacks sent a trio of journeymen to the bump to take on the Padres, and they all looked like all stars. Arizona’s starters (led by seven dominant innings from 10-loss Brandon McCarthy) recorded a 1.96 ERA while striking out nearly three batters per walk issued. The Padres rarely threatened, but when they did, the D-Backs pitching staff only got better, holding the home team to a mere one hit in 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Tommy Medica played in just two of the three games, but he was the hitter of the series for San Diego, tallying two hits (along with a walk), a RBI, and a run scored. Sacrifice flys were essentially the extent of the Padres run production, and while driving in the run is nice, it really doesn’t help build rallies and San Diego needs to do that better.
Monday vs. Reds: 1-0 Win
Tuesday vs. Reds: 8-2 Win
Wednesday vs. Reds: 3-0 Win
Cincinnati Series Recap
Do the Padres possess the best starting staff in all of baseball? OK, that might be hyperbole, but for one series, you’d be hard pressed to find a better effort. A trio of sub-30-year-old righties (Jesse Hahn, Ian Kennedy, and Tyson Ross) combined to completely shut down (0.45 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and a 23:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio) a Reds offense that has been roughly league average against RHP this season.
We had hoped to get occasional ace performances from Kennedy, but these "other" two have proven that they are ready for The Show. Hahn is a perfect 4-0 over the last two weeks, recording a 0.75 ERA with 10 more strikeouts than base runners allowed. Not to be outdone, Tyson Ross spun a three-hit shutout yesterday, his third consecutive quality start with a WHIP under 1.00. For the season, Ross owns a 2.93 ERA, ranking him ahead of one pitcher in Cole Hamels who inked a $144 million extension earlier this season. Yea, he’s been that good.
Nothing new with the ‘pen this week: just another solid showing. Tim Stauffer struggled (one earned run and four hits in his lone inning of work), but the rest of the relievers pick him up by pitching six shutout innings and not issuing a single free pass. The value of a shutdown bullpen cannot possibly be overstated for a team that struggles to consistently put runs on the board, as a strong performance by the starters is useless if the backend pitchers cannot make it stand up. As good as they were, the night off on Wednesday combined with no game today is probably the most important aspect of this series, as the overworked relievers get a nice break prior to the all star break.
I’ll give Hahn all the credit in the world for bailing San Diego out on Monday (Tommy Medica’s single was their only hit), but the offensive performance in the final two games was unlike anything we’ve seen this year. On Tuesday, every starter (and even the two pinch-hitters) recorded a hit in an offensive onslaught. The Padres succeeded with an ultra-aggressive approach, scoring eight runs and pounding out 16 hits while seeing just 3.15 pitches per plate appearance. The train just kept moving on Wednesday, as eight Padres reached base. Prior to yesterday’s game, Everth Cabrera joined Jedd Gyorko on the disabled list, indicating that his limited production this season could be a result of his strained left hamstring. Maybe they will get healthy, or maybe the healthy Padres will continue to attack, but either way, this is the first positive step the offense in San Diego has taken in quite some time. If they can continue to compensate for the lack of a big-time bat with strong at-bats up and down the order, they will have a chance to continue this nice little four-game win streak thanks to superb pitching.
Weekly Grade: B+
San Diego was a break here and a hit there from a perfect week, by far their best showing this season. They will look to continue their winning ways when Tim Lincecum (slated to start on Sunday) and the Giants come to town for a weekend series. The offense will have every chance to continue humming after that, as the Padres head to Coors Field to face a Rockies team that they passed in the NL West standings this week.