DENVER -- Eric Hosmer's debut season in San Diego hasn't exactly gone as planned. It also isn't over.The Padres insist that a strong finish is paramount in 2018, and nobody on the roster could use that strong finish more than Hosmer. Three weeks into August, he might be headed in
DENVER -- Eric Hosmer's debut season in San Diego hasn't exactly gone as planned. It also isn't over.
The Padres insist that a strong finish is paramount in 2018, and nobody on the roster could use that strong finish more than Hosmer. Three weeks into August, he might be headed in that direction.
Hosmer homered and had two hits on Tuesday night at Coors Field, as the Padres held on for a 4-3 victory over the Rockies. Left-hander Robbie Erlin worked five solid frames, and the bullpen cleaned up the rest, protecting a one-run lead with four scoreless innings in the sport's most notorious hitter's park.
It was Hosmer who put the Padres on top in the first with a long two-run homer to straightaway center field. It was the latest sign that Hosmer has bounced back from a brutal July in which he posted .477 OPS and struck out 28 times while recording just 19 hits.
July was, maybe, the worst month of Hosmer's eight-year career. He's responded by batting .311/.359/.500 in August, and he's currently riding a nine-game hitting streak.
"There's still a lot of baseball left," Hosmer said. "When I'm driving the ball, when I'm generating runs, it puts this team in a really good position to win. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to finish playing some good baseball that can lead to some positive energy leading into next season. The winning culture's got to start at some point."
Hosmer's sudden success didn't appear out of thin air. He's worked tirelessly with hitting coach Matt Stairs and assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington. They concocted an adjustment in which Hosmer is slightly less upright and stays within his legs a bit more.
More than anything, Hosmer said, it's improved his pitch recognition. His chase rate is down significantly over the past three weeks.
"He never stops working," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He didn't stop working in July. I know it was a tough month for him. But he got a couple cheap ones to fall, then he seemed to find his rhythm with his swing, and he's just taken off. The ball's really jumping off his bat.
"We're kind of seeing the guy we knew we were getting when we signed him, that we knew we'd always get."
Erlin was sharp again, allowing three runs in five innings while striking out six. In four starts since he returned to the rotation at the beginning of August, Erlin has posted a 3.43 ERA. For most of the season, he's been a very effective long reliever, but he's certainly earning himself further opportunity in a wide-open San Diego rotation.
The Padres took the lead in the sixth on Austin Hedges' go-ahead solo home run, his 10th of the season. The red-hot relief corps did the rest.
The Padres bullpen was supposed to take a step back when Brad Hand and Adam Cimber were dealt to Cleveland a month ago. It hasn't. In fact, it's gotten better.
That trade was finalized on the last day of the All-Star break. San Diego's 2.80 bullpen ERA in the second half is the second-best mark in the Majors, trailing only the A's.
Robert Stock worked 1 1/3 innings of flawless relief, and Jose Castillo recorded two outs to finish the seventh. In the absence of Hand and Cimber, Stock and Castillo have thrived in their increased roles.
Things got dicey in the eighth. Craig Stammen allowed consecutive singles to open the frame, before the Rockies opted to bunt with DJ LeMahieu. He did so successfully, but it took the bat out of the hands of MVP candidate Nolan Arenado. Stammen walked Arenado intentionally before striking out Trevor Story and getting Carlos Gonzalez to ground out.
"We have so much respect for who Arenado is and the way he swings the bat, we were pleased not to have to face him that inning," Green said.
Kirby Yates pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save, an impressive bounceback effort after he surrendered A.J. Pollock's game-winning homer in the ninth inning on Sunday.
The Padres plan to use the remainder of the season to learn about the true versatility of their roster. William Myers is playing regular third base for the first time in his career. Same with Christian Villanueva at second.
Both have been OK thus far. But they committed their first errors at their new positions on Tuesday night. Myers booted a grounder in the first inning when he appeared to rush his fielding motion in an attempt to start a double play. Three innings later, Villanueva couldn't handle a sharp one-hopper.
Erlin brushed off the miscues, inducing double-play grounders on the very next pitch both times.
"That's our job as a pitcher," Erlin said. "They're getting every other out of every inning. If there's a miscue -- which happens, it's baseball -- we have to take the pride in picking them up."
It's been an eventful two weeks for rookie right-hander Jacob Nix, the Padres' No. 14 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He pitched six scoreless frames in his debut, then failed to make it out of the first inning in his second start, allowing five runs. On Wednesday Nix gets the ball in Colorado opposite right-hander Jon Gray. First pitch is slated for 5:40 p.m. PT.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.