Padres Week 25 Recap: Friars break even despite inconsistency

Sep 16, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Ian Kennedy (22) pitches during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Petco Park.  

Friday @ Diamondbacks: 6-5 Win

Saturday @ Diamondbacks: 4-10 Loss

Sunday @ Diamondbacks: 6-8 Loss

Arizona Series Recap

The standings would suggest that the Padres are a bit better than the Diamondbacks and I’m not sure I’d argue otherwise, but you certainly wouldn’t know that from when they faced one another this season. The Friars lost two of three in their last series with the divisional rival, meaning they will end 2014 without a single series win against a team that has a chance to lead the NL in losses.

The Padres got creative in losing this week, as they out hit and out pitched the D’Backs for the most part. It was their careless fielding (four errors) that led to seven unearned runs, something that very few MLB teams can overcome. The starting rotation was far from dominant (5.52 ERA), but they were better than their opposition (7.71 ERA) and deserved better results given the run support they were given. The occasional fielding gaff can be overcome, but when you consider the low K-rate of this staff (starters struck out just eight batters), pitching out of jams is not a strength. The Diamondbacks’ starters, however, were able to get the big punch out when they needed it (14 strikeouts in 14 innings), thus allowing them to limit the amount of damage done.

The starting staff struggled to meet their standards and the fielding was suspect, yet it was the performance of the relievers that was directly tied to result. In Friday’s victory, the ‘pen pitched three scoreless innings and allowed just three base runners. In the two weekend losses, that same unit coughed up 13 base runners and seven earned runs in 7.1 innings of work.

It’s a shame too … the hitting finally showed up! Led by switch-hitters Yangervis Solarte (multiple hits in all three games and four of his last five starts) and Yasmani Grandal (four hits in the series and eight in his last seven games), the Padres hit .355 with runners in scoring position, a 63.6 percent increase over their season average. One could easily make the argument that this had as much to do with sub-par pitching, but we haven’t seen production like this for a long time, so why nitpick? I maintain my stance that Solarte is a strong everyday player in this league that San Diego can build around, making their movement at the trade deadline well worth it. The offense isn’t perfect, but it also doesn’t project to be nearly as poor as the 2014 numbers reflect.

Monday vs Phillies: 1-0 Win

Tuesday vs Phillies: 5-4 Win

Wednesday vs Phillies: 2-5 Loss

Philadelphia Series Recap

The potential of this pitching staff was once again flashed as Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy made it seem as if an extended losing streak was something that could simply never happen as they combined to allow just five hits in 15 innings of work against the Phillies. The level of domination of Cashner was that of a true ace, as it took him a mere 92 pitches to finish what he started on Monday, lowering his season ERA to 2.20 in the process.

The bullpen benefited from the night off provided by Cashner and kept the Padres close after a bad inning doomed Eric Stults on Wednesday. The relievers limited the damage in a rough fifth inning and kept San Diego within shouting distance by allowing just one earned run and three hits in 4.2 innings. In a perfect world, this is where the bats pick up the pitching staff and finish off a sweep … but that didn’t happen.

As is par for the course, the lineup did very little in this series, but they were the benefit of some sloppy fielding by the Phillies and were able to push across enough runs to earn two wins. The one run scored in support of Cashner was unearned and another fielding gaffe on Tuesday ended up being the difference between a win and a loss. That’s not to say there wasn’t the limited bright spot from the bats, Alexi Amarista crushed a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning on Tuesday, part of a three-run, two-out rally, but the consistency simply isn’t there. In that game, the "power" portion of the lineup (3-4-5 hitters) went hitless in 10 at-bats, leaving it up to the 7-8 hitters (combined for six hits) to determine the Padres’ fate. It worked on this evening, but generally speaking, those players are hitting down in the lineup for a reason and relying on them to produce runs is a dangerous way to live.

When all was said and done, these three games played out exactly how you would have guessed. Both aces took care of business, with the middle game being decided by who could deliver the big hit. Philadelphia and San Diego were hoping for plus-.500 seasons in 2014, but neither is going to make it there as we approach the final two weeks of the regular season. That being said, Padre fans should find some comfort in lining up these two rosters side-by-side, as San Diego’s youth gives them promise that the aging Phillies lack. They have a hitter and a pitcher that I truly believe can continue their progression and become stable assets as this franchise will try to snap what is likely to be a four-year streak with fewer than 80 wins in 2015.  

Weekly Grade: C+

A .500 week cannot be considered a failure for the 2014 Padres, but this week wasn’t full of quality opponents and San Diego failed to take advantage.They were a bounce here or there away from a five-game losing streak to end the week, so consider the 3-3 mark a victory in that sense. They have played some better baseball in the second half and that’s encouraging when you start projecting forward to next spring. A playoff berth is the goal (and with this pitching, a chance to dance in the postseason is all they need, as pitching tends to dominate October), and I see no reason why this team can’t make a significant improvement given their current building blocks and finish 2015 with a plus-.500 record. The Padres will wrap up their four-game series with the Phillies before welcoming in the Giants for a three-game weekend set. The Rockies then come to Petco for the final home series of the 2014 season.