Padres Week 21 Recap: Friars pass eye test despite rough week in win column
San Diego Padres' Rymer Liriano, right, scores under the tag of Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis on a single by Eric Stults and a fielding error by Scott Van Slyke during the second inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Los Angeles.
There is no shame in losing three of four to an organization with the stability and consistency of the Cardinals, but it’s hard to feel as if one, if not two or three, wins were left on the table during this four game set. The Padres offense tallied 20 runs, production that took them nine games to achieve at the beginning of this season, but the pitching staff was not able to carry the team in the fashion that they have all season long.
The starting pitchers recorded a 5.96 ERA and walked just as many hitters as they struck out. The Cardinals don’t boast a powerful offense, so the Padres less than stellar 1.28 WHIP allowed them to piece together rallies and answer an offense that was busy over-achieving. They were considerably out performed by their counterparts, as St. Louis starters combined for a 3.46 ERA and gave up fewer hits than innings pitched.
Speaking of those bats, they displayed great patience against the Cardinals bullpen, thus making that high run total possible. While the offense was better in terms of runs scored, the consistency was still spotty at best. Never was that more obvious than in their one run loss on Thursday where Alexi Amarista was thrown out at home in the ninth. Was that a crucial play? Sure, but the fact that the Padres sent the minimum number of hitters to the dish in five separate innings also played a significant role in this nip-and-tuck affair. That being said, it is hard to argue with the overall results in this series for the offense. On Friday, five of their eight hits went for extra bases, and on Saturday the top half of the order finally showed promise, as the 1-2-3-5 hitters combined for eight of the team’s nine hits, scoring six runs and knocking in seven in the process. Heck, just about everyone got into the action against one of the game’s premier pitchers in Adam Wainwright on Sunday, as every position player besides Yasmani Grandal recorded a hit. Critics will point to the fact that San Diego left at least seven runners on base in every one of these games, but hey, we had runners on base. Again, that may be a meaningless victory when it comes to win total, but if you’re looking forward to 2015, it promotes hope.
The starters weren’t great, but the bullpen didn’t help matters by registering an uncharacteristically high 4.36 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. Alex Torres produced the Yuck stat line of the series on Thursday, walking two and giving up a single before departing without recording an out. John Jay smoked a go-ahead double to knock in two. These struggles were disappointing in the short-term, but I would still consider the ‘pen a strength of this team now and down the road.
The Padres managed to avoid all the aces in Los Angeles and their offense continued to role against the division leading Dodgers. They pounded out 25 hits in the first two games of this series, cashing in with runners in scoring position at a 37 percent clip, well above their season average of 22 percent. I was encouraged by the distribution of hits, as the 1-4 hitters carried the offense on Tuesday (9/19 with four runs scored and four runs driven in) and the 6-8 spots in the lineup provided the production last night (5/9 with three walks, three runs, and one RBI). It is no secret that San Diego does not have a Miguel Cabrera in the middle of their order, making it crucial that they get all the help they can from as many sources as possible.
On the pitching side of things, the Padres gave up a golden opportunity. Ian Kennedy was given three runs of support in the first inning, but he was unable to make the early lead stick and allowed five earned runs on seven hits in five innings of work. The bullpen made things worse by coughing up two runs, thus wasting the strong effort from the offense. I maintain my thought that the Padres can challenge for a wildcard spot sooner rather than later, we just need the strong hitting days to coincide with average pitching days as it seems that half of the strong offensive performances happen to come on a day where the pitchers struggle to meet their lofty standards. Eric Stults was also given an early three run cushion, but he made it stand up. The lefty won his sixth start of the season (and his third straight decision) by pitching five innings of one-run ball. The bullpen made it stick by giving up just two hits in their four innings of work, shutting down a potent Dodgers offense from recording the clutch hit (0/5 with RISP).
The Padres have been playing their best ball of the season over the last few weeks and get a great chance to make national news if they can beat Clayton Kershaw tonight and take two of three from the Dodgers.
Weekly Grade: B-
They may have lost four of six games this week, but there is no way you can tell me that this is the same Padres team we saw during the first 90-plus games of the season. They seem to be more competitive, a mindset that is needed if they want to emerge from this rut of mediocrity that they’ve been stuck in this decade. They seem poised to finish this season strong, a compliment to their character as they have no postseason aspirations. I know I know, you want wins, but becoming a playoff contender doesn’t happen overnight and there have already been more positive signs post All-Star Break this season than any other in recent memory. Jesse Hahn was optioned back to double A, a move that shows me this franchise "gets it" and is looking to protect its future. Forget the record, wins and losses don’t matter right now, and use your eyes to evaluate the product on the field … it’s not that bad.
As mentioned, San Diego gets the pleasure of facing Kershaw tonight before heading to Arizona for a three-game weekend set. They then return to Petco to face the contending Brewers, a team I think the pitching staff has a chance to rediscover their rhythm against because of their very aggressive nature.