SAN FRANCISCO -- With their dramatic win on Tuesday, the Padres gave themselves yet another chance to win a series on Wednesday afternoon. But just like each of their past three opportunities, they squandered it from the outset.
Left-hander Clayton Richard was roughed up early and the bullpen offered little reprieve as the Padres dropped their rubber match against the Giants, 9-4, at AT&T Park. They've now lost five consecutive series -- the past four of which have come after they split the first two games only to come unglued in the finale.
Equally concerning has been the Padres' inability to string victories together. They haven't won two straight since taking three in a row against the Giants in mid-April. On only one other occasion have they won consecutive games this season.
"We're in a position to win a series today, and outside of me starting the game off poorly, in other facets we played well enough to be in it," Richard said. "That's a difficult pill to swallow, knowing you put the boys in a bad position right out of the gate."
A familiar face did the bulk of the damage. Nobody has caught more innings during Richard's 10-year career than former Padres backstop Nick Hundley, and the catcher made that familiarity pay off in a big way. He went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer -- and he could have hit for the cycle had center fielder Manuel Margot not played his sixth-inning double perfectly off the wall.
Richard allowed seven runs (six earned) on eight hits over four innings as his ERA ballooned to 6.21. Perhaps most disappointing for Richard are the 19 walks he's allowed in his past six starts.
"Not ideal," Richard said when asked to characterize his season thus far. "It's been rough. It's not been how I drew it up. But it's not without reason. There are reasons as to why it's not going well, and there are enough of those reasons that I can control and turn it around."
After a three-run Giants first inning, the Padres clawed back to within one when Eric Hosmer rocked a two-run double off the right-field wall in the top of the third. But Richard couldn't keep the Giants in check, allowing two runs in the third and two more in the fourth.
Right fielder Matthew Szczur swatted his first homer of the season in the top of the fifth inning. Wednesday marked a rare start for Szczur, who has spent most of his two seasons with the Padres in a bench role.
"I work hard every day to get the opportunity to play," Szczur said. "I'll just try my best every time and dominate the task at hand. That's all I'm trying to do."
The Padres didn't mount much of a threat after that, however. Richard's outing marked the 10th time this season in which a Padres starter was unable to last five innings -- tied with the Marlins for the most in the National League.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Can't assume the double play:Christian Villanueva won the National League Rookie of the Month Award on the strength of his bat. His glove could still use some work, though. With one out and one on in the first, Richard induced a would-be double-play grounder to third from Evan Longoria. Villanueva rushed to make a play, and the ball squirted through his legs and into left field, setting the stage for the Giants' three-run first.
"It wasn't the type of game you pin on one error," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We ended up giving up nine runs. It's not just one error that did it. But that one set the tone in the wrong direction."
Instant response: Following Hosmer's two-run double, the Giants wasted no time getting their three-run cushion back. Hundley led off the frame with a double of his own before Richard walked each of the next two hitters. Brandon Crawford capitalized with a two-run single, and the Giants led, 5-2.
"The most crucial two runs were the two runs we gave up in the bottom half of the inning after we scored two," said Green. "When you start mounting a charge and you get back and you cut it to 3-2, giving up those two in the bottom half of that inning probably hurts even more than the first three."
These days, no one is swinging a hotter bat than Hosmer. The Padres first baseman has six multi-hit games in his past seven, and he's reached base 21 times in 34 plate appearances over that span.
On Wednesday, Hosmer went 2-for-5 -- his Major League-leading 14th multi-hit game of the season. In the process, he boosted his average back over .300.
Oddly enough, Hosmer was sitting on just four RBIs through the end of April, despite his recent hot streak. He's equaled that tally through two games in May.
Padres catcher Austin Hedges landed on the disabled list Tuesday. He's caught Richard almost exclusively over the past two seasons (and more than anybody other than Hundley). Richard has a 4.38 ERA in 220 innings with Hedges behind the plate. In 21 innings throwing to other catchers, Richard has allowed 26 earned runs for an 11.14 ERA.
HE SAID IT
"To blame it on mechanics is the wrong approach. I have to be better. I'm not sugarcoating it. I have to be better." -- Richard
The Padres embark on a historic trip to Monterrey, Mexico, for a three-game set with the rival-Dodgers beginning Friday at 6:10 p.m. PT. Rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi gets the ball for San Diego. Villanueva, the lone Mexican-born player on either roster, will surely be greeted warmly.