Week 9 Recap: Padres pitch poorly and carry a big stick

San Diego Padres first baseman Tommy Medica, left, celebrates with teammates after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Phoenix.

Not your average week for San Diego, and if we’ve learned anything this season, it’s that the Padres struggle to compete when the style of play doesn’t reflect their grind-it-out pace where runs are treated as gold.

Thursday vs. Cubs: 1-5 Loss

Friday vs. Cubs: 11-1 Win

Saturday vs. Cubs: 2-3 Loss

Sunday vs. Cubs: 4-3 Win

Chicago Series Recap

I’m confident that the Padres are a better baseball team than the Cubs, but as has been the case all season long, they struggled with consistency, resulting in a disappointing series split.

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The starting rotation recorded respectable numbers (3.80 ERA and 8.02 K/9), but considering that the Cubs’ offense ranks in the bottom third of the league, those aren’t the type of dominating numbers I expected. Padres starters handed out an uncharacteristically high number of free passes (seven in 21.1 innings), thus igniting an otherwise stagnant team. That being said, Tim Stauffer and Ian Kennedy proved themselves capable of taking over (gave up a total of five hits and one earned run in 11 innings of action), something San Diego needs while Andrew Cashner is on the shelf.

The Cubs’ starters boasted a higher ERA (5.48), but that number ballooned after Edwin Jackson gave up eight earned runs in just four innings of work on Friday. In that game, five of the Padres top six hitters had multiple hits with Yonder Alonso and Chase Headley both recording multiple RBIs and runs. Subtract Jackson from the equation and Chicago starters gave up just 10 hits in 19 innings of work, as San Diego once again struggled to produce scoring opportunities. As putrid as this offense has been, Carlos Quentin is showing signs of life when inserted into the game. Sure, a groin injury is the latest injury that is keeping him from consistent playing time, but he does have a hit in his last six appearances, including a pinch hit homer on Saturday that knocked the sneaky good Travis Wood out of the game. If you’re really looking for an optimistic view, the Padres’ top four hitters managed to score three of the team’s four runs on Sunday despite going hitless.

Oddly enough, the bullpen struggled in the two victories and excelled in the two losses. In defeat, the ‘pen gave up just one hit and one walk in 7.2 innings while striking out four. San Diego was playing from behind in these games, but the bullpen’s ability to keep the game tight left the door open for a comeback. The offense was unable to storm back, but if the relievers continue to pitch like this, the offense will eventually come up with some timely hitting. In victories, however, the bullpen also kept the game close, surrendering three earned runs and nine base runners in seven innings of work. This trend should point management to trust their top shelf arms to pitch into, and ideally past, the seventh inning, while suggesting that they should pull the plug on their lesser starters sooner rather than later.

The Cubs have had limited success this year, but they’ve gone about it the same way as the Padres: strong pitching and just enough hitting. Next up for San Diego was a trip to Arizona, a team that hits a little bit and pitches even less.

Monday @ Diamondbacks: 5-7 Loss

Tuesday @ Diamondbacks: 4-3 Win

Wednesday @ Diamondbacks: 6-12 Loss

Arizona Series Recap

After a series with the Cubs that very much resembled San Diego baseball, the Padres got into a slugfest with the Diamondbacks, a style in which they have little chance at succeeding in. They won the lone low-scoring game, but simply didn’t have the firepower to keep pace with the slugging Diamondbacks in the other two games, making for a less than inspiring series.

Ugly numbers were made gruesome by the lackluster performance on Wednesday. The final damage: a series ERA of 11.12 and a WHIP of 2.29 for the starters. The fact that they stole one game is nothing more than a minor miracle. Obviously the hits are a major concern (21 in 11.1 innings), but I’m more worried about the strikeout-to-walk ratio. There are elite pitchers out there (think Cliff Lee or Adam Wainwright) that give up more than their fair share of hits, but they can reach back and get the big strikeout when it’s needed. The Padres’ starters walked five batters and struck out six in Arizona this week, a rate that is going to encourage rally’s instead of prevent them. For me, that is where this series took a turn for the worse. The Diamondback starters weren’t great (4.34 ERA and 1.45 WHIP), as every starter gave up at least eight hits to the lightest hitting team in baseball, but their 9:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio allowed them to limit the damage.

Due to the inefficiencies of the starting staff, the bullpen was forced into extended innings, a role that even elite relievers are going to struggle with. For the series as a whole, the ‘pen registered a 4.40 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, taking the loss on Monday (Kevin Quackenbush served up a walk-off 2-run homer to A.J. Pollock) and not allowing the Padres to ever have a chance at recovering from a massive first-inning deficit last night. Again, I don’t blame the bullpen, as 14.1 innings pitched is absurd. That being said, they did strikeout more than three batters for every walk issued, so things could have been worse.

If you’re looking for a bright side, the bats finally came alive. A 14-run month seemed more likely than a 14-run series, but the Padres rode the hot bat of Tommy Medica of all people to put some runs on the board. The 26-year-old utility player notched seven hits (five for extra bases) in 10 at-bats, scored four times, knocked in five (including the game-winning HR on Tuesday), and increased his season batting average by 96 points. Yea, I’d say that’s a successful road trip. He led an offense that cranked out 33 hits and generally got contributions up and down the lineup, but the high strikeout totals put a cap on just how successful of a series this could be.

Weekly Grade: D+

Well, that didn’t go quite as planned. The series split against the Cubbies isn’t the end of the world, as they are two teams that play a very similar style, but allowing the Diamondbacks to dictate the pace of play? The starters struggled in a big way, and while Arizona’s starters weren’t great, they didn’t beat themselves. The great teams in baseball can win by playing half the game well (pitching or hitting), but the Padres aren’t a great team and need a complete effort to beat any team in the major leagues. The offense showed signs of life, but could that be the result of playing in the hitter-friendly Chase Field, much like they found success when playing at Coors? Things are going to have to get better in a hurry, as the Padres face two powerful lineups this week, traveling to Chicago for a three-game set with the White Sox and then returning home for a three-gamer against Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates.