Friars at crossroads after 5th straight loss
Club could be trending toward seller mode ahead of Trade Deadline
DENVER -- The Padres might be in the process of solving their Trade Deadline riddle.
Buyers or sellers? They're playing their way toward the latter.
Six days ago, San Diego sat two games above .500, squarely in the National League Wild Card hunt. The Friars have since lost five games in a row, including a disheartening 9-6 defeat in their series opener in Colorado on Thursday night.
In his return from the injured list, left-hander Matt Strahm coughed up six runs in 3 1/3 innings. The Padres’ bullpen couldn’t stop the bleeding. The struggling pitching staff squandered Manny Machado's two-homer night and three hits from Wil Myers.
“This losing streak looks a little bigger because it's one of those ones where we fell under .500,” said an optimistic Myers afterward. “People on the outside start to panic a little bit, but not necessarily in here. Yeah, this one carries a little more weight. But we're still fine. We've come out of this a few times already this year.”
Myers isn’t wrong. The Padres lost six straight in April, then reeled off five straight victories. They lost six of seven in May before another five-game winning streak.
But in the big picture, this skid might hold more weight. The Padres’ front office is currently mulling its trade chips, and those chips are plentiful on both sides of the buy/sell coin. San Diego has prospects it could move for a controllable starting pitcher. It also has several outfielders and a lock-down closer in Kirby Yates, who would help any contender.
If the Padres were to add some young talent, it could set them up nicely for 2020 and beyond. But they aren’t prepared to punt just yet. Their 13-hit outburst on Thursday offered more than a few positives.
“We showed some really good signs of life offensively today,” Padres manager Andy Green said.” We're really encouraged by those signs of life."
“There's some guys in here that are starting to swing it that haven't recently,” said Myers. “After dropping five in a row, we're still an offense that can click and win nine out of 10.”
The Padres need to get clicking fast. They’re digging themselves a hole -- three games below .500 and 5 1/2 games out of the postseason picture, in which they trail five teams for that final spot.
It’s still only mid-June, of course, and the season is bound for some twists and turns over the next three-and-a-half months. But if general manager A.J. Preller was considering a move to bolster his team’s playoff odds, the past week may have changed his thinking.
Machado heating up?
Defensively, he’s been other-worldly. But at the plate, Machado hasn’t yet lived up to his franchise-record 10-year contract. The star third baseman entered play Thursday hitting .240 with a 95 wRC+ -- an all encompassing hitting metric, where anything under 100 is below league average.
Machado jumped back over 100 with three hits, including home runs to both fields. He turned on a Jon Gray changeup in the fifth inning. Then he went the other way with an outside fastball from Wade Davis in the ninth.
“Homer to left, homer to right,” Green said. “Those are always good days.”
It’s not the first time Machado has shown signs that he might break out. He torched Dodgers pitching in early May, only to fall into a rut after that. He entered play Thursday hitting .185/.302/.247 with one homer in his previous 23 games.
“It's just a matter of time before he goes off,” Green said. “We know that. He's a guy we expect to carry us at certain points in time in the year. We could see that coming right now.”
Strahm roughed up
Strahm returned after missing one start due to soreness in his ribs, and he received a rude welcome from Coors Field. Pitching for the first time in Colorado, Strahm allowed seven hits and four walks, while striking out four.
“It's a tricky place,” Strahm said. “They've got to pitch in it, too.”
Strahm’s ERA jumped to 4.66 in the process. After a promising start to the season, he’s now endured consecutive dreadful starts.
On Thursday night, Strahm may have been the victim of some rough batted-ball luck. He also theorized that the two home runs he allowed -- a second-inning blast from Trevor Story and a fourth-inning bomb from Charlie Blackmon -- wouldn’t have left Petco Park. But Strahm made sure to note that he wasn’t using that as an excuse. Statcast data said that Story's would've been a homer in all 30 ballparks, and Blackmon's would've been one in all but Detroit's Comerica Park and Arizona's Chase Field.
“You're not pitching in Petco,” he said. “You've got to adapt.”
He didn’t. The bullpen didn’t.
Now three games below .500 for the first time this year, the Padres find themselves at a crossroads. The remainder of their weekend series in Colorado -- against a division rival which is seemingly headed in the opposite direction -- could prove decisive in the scope of their season.