Padres Week 13 Recap: Padres show life against NL West elite

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 23: Odrisamer Despaigne #40 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the first inning at AT&T Park on June 23, 2014 in San Francisco, California.  

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Thursday vs. Mariners: 4-1 Win

Seattle Recap:

Another impressive outing by Jesse Hahn and an explosive seventh inning where five Padres reached base (only four managed in the other seven innings) propelled San Diego to a much needed win in the final game of their four-game set with the Mariners. Hahn, a 24-year-old rookie making just his third big league start, scattered five hits and allowed only an unearned run in seven innings of work, lowering his season ERA to 2.16 and running his scoreless inning streak to 13.2.

The bats were quiet for the majority of the evening, but back-to-back triples from Tommy Medica and Cameron Maybin sparked a rally that earned Hahn the victory.  Everth Cabrera would later add a two RBI single, essentially icing the game given the strength of the Padres pen. The middle of the order was useless, as the 3-4-5 hitters went 0-11 with three strikeouts, but the home team used its slap hitters to perfection, giving Hahn all the support he needed.

Huston Street now has 20 saves and a sub-1.00 ERA, numbers that should land him in this year’s all-star game. San Diego is going to have to find a way to score runs, but if Hahn can combine with Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy atop this rotation, they will continue to be competitive, even with a very limited offense. Next up are the Dodgers, a team picked by many to challenge for the World Series. After a disappointing two weeks, the Padres are in a position where they could use a shot of confidence, and there is no better way than hosting a high-profile team.

Friday vs. Dodgers: 6-5 Win

Saturday vs. Dodgers: 2-4 Loss

*Prior to first pitch on Sunday, General Manager Josh Byrnes was fired.

Sunday vs Dodgers: 1-2 Loss

Los Angeles Series Recap:

I’m not a believer of "moral victories," but being put on the same field as one of baseball’s most talented teams and competing throughout should count for something. The Padres managed to win only one game (who would have thought they’d win the highest scoring game?), but they showed fight that had been lacking in the prior weeks.

The starting staff battled through a deep lineup, putting pressure on Los Angeles to make the most of the few opportunities they got. Subtract a rough first inning on Friday (four hits, one error, and two runs allowed), and San Diego starters allowed just six earned runs in 20 innings of work on 15 hits. That’s a pretty impressive stat line against the very potent Dodgers, and with the bullpen once again pitching well (they allowed just four hits and one earned run in eight innings of work), this series didn’t look like the statistical mismatch it was projected to be.

As good as San Diego’s starting staff was, Los Angeles’ was a bit better (four earned runs and 13 hits in 18.2 innings). That being said, there were some signs of growth that should be viewed as a step in the right direction. Seth Smith rediscovered his stroke, notching three hits (two homers) on Friday, while Carlos Quentin had a clutch pinch-hit RBI double and Alexi Amarista reached base three times. Their comeback effort came against one of the premier strikeout closers in all of baseball in Kenley Jansen, as all five batters who stepped into the box made contact.

They got to the bullpen again on Saturday, and while it was too little too late, it’s progress. They had four base runners in the eighth frame, led by the patience atop the order. Everth Cabrera and Smith may have combined for just one hit, but they reached base four times and saw 41 pitches, an approach that allows the rest of the lineup to adjust.

Sunday was back to the Padre batting that we’ve come to expect this season (the 2-7 hitters recorded just one hit in 20 at-bats), wasting a strong pitching performance from Eric Stults that saw the Dodgers reach base six times after the second inning (they reached base five times in the first two frames). Until the lineup produces with consistency, it is going to be difficult to string many wins together, but with pitching like this, the consecutive losses shouldn’t pile up either.

Monday @ Giants: 6-0 Win

Tuesday @ Giants: 7-2 Win

Wednesday @ Giants: 0-4 Loss

San Francisco Series Recap:

Despite being no-hit yesterday, this series was still a step in the right direction for the Padres. The key, for the fan base and for the team, is realizing that the no-hit effort against Tim Lincecum is just one loss … it counts the same as any other game where you score less runs than your opponent. As long as this demoralizing effort doesn’t have an extended impact, San Diego should return home with more confidence than they entered this series with.

Andrew Cashner (sore shoulder) is back on the DL, a potentially devastating blow for a staff that needs a pitcher they can count on, but the starters stepped up in a big way in San Francisco. In addition to giving you a great Scrabble option in name based games, Odrisamer Despaigne gave the Padres one of the better emergency spot starts in recent memory. In his first career appearance, the 27-year-old spun seven scoreless innings, holding the home team to a mere four base runners in a truly dominating effort. He set the tone for a starting staff that recorded a 2.79 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. Despaigne got outs by inducing weak contact while Jesse Hahn and Ian Kennedy piled up 11.7 k/9 in giving the Padres a realistic chance to sweep a team that is considered among the best in the game.

As good as the starters were, those outings mean nothing without a near perfect ‘pen. The relievers struck out seven batters while allowing just five players reach base and not allowing a run. It is difficult enough for San Diego to get the lead, thus making the bullpen’s ability to hold the advantage arguably the most crucial part of the Padres stringing a few wins together.

The no-hitter on Wednesday was obviously a bad showing for the batting lineup, but did it really shed light on anything we didn’t already know? The Padres have struggled for weeks at a time to string hits together, making a 0-fer on a given day not a major surprise. I’d read more into the first two games of this series, where San Diego proved capable of producing runs. On Monday, the top six hitters in the lineup all reached base while the top three hitters combined to record five hits in 12 at-bats. The volume of hits is one way to score runs, but the Padres showed us a glimpse that they have the ability to manufacture runs in an efficient manner. Tuesday night saw San Diego score three runs via sac fly, groundout, and infield single … proving that the right approach at the plate can result in success. Alexi Amarista led the way with three hits and three RBI, but he was long from the only contributor. In fact, every position player reached base beside Wil Venable, and even he managed to drive in two runs. With Jedd Gyorko sidelined and the middle of the order simply not providing the pop we once took for granted, the ability to move runs up a base and drive them in an efficient manner is something the Padres must excel at if they want to win with consistency, something we caught a glimpse of in San Francisco this week.

Weekly Grade: B

On a week in which the team fired their GM and placed its ace on the DL with another arm issue, a "B" grade should be viewed as a minor miracle. The Padres success highlighted the parity in baseball today, as they played two very strong teams to an essential stand still. The pitching was nothing short of phenomenal against some of the premier bats in the game today, constantly giving San Diego a chance to keep the game close. Even with the flawed batting order that lacks run producers, I’ll take my chances in the later innings with this bullpen. San Diego will look to continue the positive vibes with nine straight home games starting with a three-gamer against Arizona and then three against Cincinnati.