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Hosmer's 10th HR bright spot in Padres' loss

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- Over the past month and a half, as Eric Hosmer fell into one of the worst slumps of his big league career, the Padres maintained that their prized first baseman would work out the kinks. He has quite the track record, after all.

An 11-6 loss to the Cubs on Saturday night at Petco Park offered reason for both optimism and skepticism regarding Hosmer. In his first at-bat, Hosmer demolished a fastball from Kyle Hendricks, sending it into the right-field seats. It was his first home run since June 12, and perhaps a sign he's poised to break out.

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SAN DIEGO -- Over the past month and a half, as Eric Hosmer fell into one of the worst slumps of his big league career, the Padres maintained that their prized first baseman would work out the kinks. He has quite the track record, after all.

An 11-6 loss to the Cubs on Saturday night at Petco Park offered reason for both optimism and skepticism regarding Hosmer. In his first at-bat, Hosmer demolished a fastball from Kyle Hendricks, sending it into the right-field seats. It was his first home run since June 12, and perhaps a sign he's poised to break out.

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"It felt good to get that one today," Hosmer said. "But it's something I want to get consistent with and get back to helping this team win."

Hosmer's next two at-bats served as something of a reality check. He hasn't been homering because he's hitting too many baseballs into the ground. Hosmer's 62 percent ground-ball rate is the second highest in the Majors. He's one of three players in baseball with at least 50 batted balls and a negative launch angle.

In the third, Hosmer bounced into an inning-ending double play with two men on base. He did the same in the sixth. Even with his two-run homer, Hosmer is just 5-for-54 this month. He still has work to do if he's going to return to the extra-base machine he was during his first two months as a Padre.

"From experience, you have the confidence to know you're going to get out of it," Hosmer said. "This game's tough. It'll knock you down. You put the work in, you execute your plans, sometimes you don't get the results you want. ... Today we definitely took a step in the right direction."

Hosmer says his movements in the box haven't felt synched up over the past few weeks. He's worked to minimize the moving parts in his swing. But without proper timing, he's hitting too many baseballs on the ground. Even when hit hard, there's only so much damage a ground ball can do.

"He can turn it around in a heartbeat in the second half," said Padres hitting coach Matt Stairs, prior to the game. "… Is he angry, yes. But it's same approach, same guy, same great teammate, same hard worker. He's just in a funk."

Hosmer's homer put San Diego on top by two in the first inning, but the Cubs answered quickly against Luis Perdomo, whose command was erratic over 4 1/3 innings. He surrendered five runs on six hits, including home runs from Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber.

Video: CHC@SD: Green on Perdomo's start, Hosmer in 11-6 loss

The Padres clawed two runs back in the bottom of the seventh on Hunter Renfroe's pinch-hit homer. They wouldn't get any closer than that. The Cubs plated three in the eighth and three more in the ninth, when Javier Baez put the game on ice with a three-run blast off Phil Hughes.

A month ago, the Padres crawled within four games of .500. They've dropped 20 of 26 since, and on Saturday night, they dropped to the bottom of the National League standings.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Renfroe in a pinch: Renfroe has battled an ailing hip flexor over the past three days. The Padres weren't taking any chances, and they kept him out of the lineup on Thursday and Friday. He returned to action Saturday night in a pinch-hit situation in the seventh inning, and Renfroe crushed the first pitch he saw from Cubs reliever Randy Rosario over the center-field fence, bringing the Padres within one. He's 6-for-11 with two homers in the pinch this season.

Video: CHC@SD: Renfroe crushes a 2-run homer to center

Franmil falters: Franmil Reyes is in the big leagues because of his bat. His defense -- which has improved incrementally over the past couple months -- still needs plenty of work. In the top of the eighth, Reyes raced into foul territory in pursuit of an Addison Russell pop fly. He arrived in time, but the ball caromed off his glove, giving Russell new life. He capitalized one pitch later with an RBI single, and the flood gates opened. Victor Caratini followed with a two-run double, and the Cubs led, 8-4.

Video: CHC@SD: Russell drives in Happ on single in the 8th

ASUAJE ON A ROLL
Since his late-June callup, Carlos Asuaje has been an on-base machine. He reached four times on Saturday night, courtesy of two singles and two walks, and he was on first base for Hosmer's first-inning blast.

In 42 plate appearances since his return, Asuaje has 12 hits and eight walks for a .476 on-base percentage. He saw 21 pitches on Saturday night.

"He's in a place where if you can continue to repeat those kinds of at-bats, you're going to be a really good offensive performer," said Padres manager Andy Green.

HE SAID IT
"He has a long track record. That gives him a lot of confidence. He's hit his whole life, not just the last couple years. He knows he's going to hit, we know he's going to hit and he's been a great teammate through his struggles, which I think is a great example for a lot of guys to see." -- Green, on Hosmer

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Perdomo came unglued in the fifth -- and he got no help from the replay room. With one out in the frame, Jason Heyward sprayed a line drive to left field. He attempted to turn a single into a double, but it first appeared as though Wil Myers' throw beat him at second. The Cubs challenged, and replays showed that Heyward beat Asuaje's tag. He was safe, and Baez gave the Cubs the lead with a two-run double on the next pitch.

Video: CHC@SD: Heyward reaches second safely after review

UP NEXT
Eric Lauer will be looking for an encore to his best start as a big leaguer when the Padres wrap up their first half against the Cubs at 1:10 p.m. PT on Sunday at Petco Park. Chicago counters with Jon Lester. Lauer pitched 8 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers on Tuesday. He won't be given such a long leash on Sunday, after throwing a career-high 115 pitches.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Eric Hosmer