SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' abundance of young, talented arms began to arrive in San Diego in the last few months of the season as the team began to experiment on the possibilities of the rotation come 2019.Jacob Nix was the last starter to break into the big leagues for
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' abundance of young, talented arms began to arrive in San Diego in the last few months of the season as the team began to experiment on the possibilities of the rotation come 2019.
Jacob Nix was the last starter to break into the big leagues for the Padres this year, making his debut Aug. 10 when he hurled six innings of shutout ball vs. the Phillies. His last start of the season, however, echoed how he's performed since that day, as the D-backs tagged him early and held on for a 5-4 victory Saturday night at Petco Park.
"It's a rougher way for him to end the season," manager Andy Green said. "There's a lot of work out in front of him to do to be right in the mix for our guys heading into Spring Training. He can do it, but this probably wasn't the way he wanted to end the season."
Nix, 22, has struggled from start to start with inconsistency in his two months with the club, and while he's shown flashes of being effective, he's also yielded signs of concern that he may not be fully ready for the Majors. After an emphatic debut, he wasn't able to get out of the first inning in his second career start, but bounced back two outings later with an 8 1/3-inning, one-run affair vs. Seattle. He's been a wild card for the Padres, although Green says it'd be fair to refer to his struggles as a rookie just trying to find his groove.
"There was a short history of outings in the Minor Leagues and he got up here really, really quickly," Green said. "He's learning on the job and he has a lot of lessons to take with him in the offseason."
The inconsistencies were evident Saturday once more for Nix, who opened the game with a seven-pitch first inning, but struggled to locate his curveball the rest of the outing. He was able to induce soft contact using his fastball and slider, but wasn't able to avoid Ildemaro Vargas' two-run blast in the fourth inning that put the D-backs up 4-0.
"The changeup I made a point to not hang any, so I was really, really focused on keeping it down, and they were too down," Nix said. "I have to find the happy medium."
Nix recorded four innings of work and was tagged for four runs on five hits and three walks in his final start, finishing 2018 with a 2-5 record and 7.02 ERA over nine games. With San Diego stacked with young talent, specifically pitchers, Nix knows he'll have to work for a spot on the roster over the offseason. He'll focus on bettering his breaking pitches, along with toning up his mechanics.
"Overall, I'm happy I got to be here. I'm not happy with the overall results," he said. "We have a ton of guys and a lot of talent. I recognize that, I'm not coming into Spring Training expecting to have a spot in this locker room. I know I have to earn it."
"He'll have an opportunity coming into the spring to prove himself," Green added. "He's taken some steps forward, but where he goes is based on how hard he works this offseason."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After the D-backs jumped out to a 4-0 lead, the Padres threatened to thwart that lead with a rally of their own. Hunter Renfroe walked and Cory Spangenberg followed up with a single to set the table for Manuel Margot, who lined one into the right-center gap for a two-run triple. Javy Guerra got in on the action one batter later, pulling a hard single to right field to score Margot for his first career RBI.
"Loved Javy Guerra's at-bats," Green said. "He had some really good at-bats today with that RBI single and he worked a nice walk."
That would be all the Padres could muster offensively until the eighth inning, when Eric Hosmer crushed a 2-2 offering from Brad Ziegler to left field for an opposite-field solo homer. The blast was Hosmer's 18th big fly on the year, but it wasn't enough to overtake the D-backs.
Hosmer is having a down year, but he's putting up a pretty hot September. Hosmer has reached base safely in 24 of his last 27 games, boasting a .357 on-base percentage with 13 walks. He's hit safely in all nine of games at Petco Park against the D-backs this year, batting .400 (14-for-35) with two doubles and two home runs.
Joey Lucchesi will toe the mound for the Padres' final game of 2018 on Sunday. He was the first pitcher from the 2016 Draft to make his debut and he's stitched together quite an impressionable rookie campaign. He'll hope to flash some resilience after his worst start of the year -- seven runs in 3 2/3 frames against the Dodgers -- to end the Padres' season on a high note. He'll face off against Robbie Ray, with first pitch scheduled for 12:10 p.m. PT.
Katie Woo is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow her on Twitter @katiejwoo.