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Padres' late rally comes up short, but renews optimism

Bats come alive in ninth inning, including a Gyorko home run

SAN DIEGO -- Absent Saturday was the busy thump and blare of the postgame music loop that regularly fills the Padres' clubhouse after a victory, which was quite understandable given the Padres dropped a 4-3 decision to the D-backs at Petco Park.

Instead, the room, frequently desolate and hushed after a loss, was filled with something else entirely -- hope and optimism following a spirited ninth-inning rally saw them score three runs and come within a hit of tying the game.

It wasn't a victory, but it might have been a start for the Padres, who are looking for even the smallest of victories to cling to, especially since the real ones seem unattainable these days for a team that's scored the fewest runs in baseball (80) and came within three outs of its fourth shutout loss in the last seven games.

"You hope so," said Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko, who had a two-run home run in the ninth that cut into the D-backs lead. "When you struggle like we've been, it's tough. You've got to keep working … and trust what you're doing.

"Hopefully, we can start bunching some hits together."

That didn't happen for the first seven innings Saturday, as D-backs pitcher Brandon McCarthy (1-5) held the Padres (13-18) to three hits over the first seven innings as he was backed by four runs, which might have seemed like 40 given the way the Padres have struggled offensively this season.

But the Padres kept chipping away, putting runners on first and second with no outs in the eighth inning before Xavier Nady scorched a ball to the left of second baseman Aaron Hill, who snagged the ball and spun toward second base before starting a double play.

The D-backs (11-22) wouldn't be so lucky in the ninth inning.

With one out, Seth Smith -- who had three hits -- singled and scored as Yasmani Grandal doubled. That brought up Gyorko, who entered the game hitting .155. He ran into a fastball from Addison Reed, lining a ball over the left field wall to cut the lead to 4-3.

Cameron Maybin, who stole an extra-base hit and quite possibly a home run from Paul Goldschmidt in the fifth inning with a leaping catch at the wall, then had a double. A walk to pinch-hitter Will Venable put runners on first and second, but Nady flew out to right field to end the game.

"A good ninth, the bats got going a little bit in the ninth," said Padres manager Bud Black. "… Some hard hit balls in the eighth, too."

The Padres were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position Saturday, otherwise that ninth-inning rally might have led to something other than renewed optimism in the offense.

In the third inning, just as McCarthy was settling into a groove, Maybin walked to start the inning and then kept running when rookie Jace Peterson jumped on a pitch and drove it to the gap in left-center. Maybin arrived safely at third base as Peterson coasted into second base.

There was only one problem; left fielder Alfredo Marte tracked the ball down and threw the ball back into the infield to complete a double play, as Maybin and Peterson looked stunned.

"I thought it was over his head for sure," Peterson said.

McCarthy allowed three hits with one walk and six strikeouts. He entered the game with a 5.54 ERA but like teammate Bronson Arroyo the night before -- he of the 7.77 ERA entering the game -- found success against the Padres.

"I think the story of the night was McCarthy's performance, seven great innings for us of shutout ball. He's thrown the ball very well for us and that kind of set the tone for us," said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson.

The D-backs jumped on old friend Ian Kennedy for three runs on 11 hits in five innings, as Kennedy's former teammate and backstop, Miguel Montero, got a hold of a changeup in the second inning and sent the ball over the fence in center field. It was the first of three hits he had against Kennedy.

"It could have been better. I was falling being guys and felt like it was a constant battle the whole game. I've had some success against Miggy the last time I faced him," Kennedy said. "I didn't make very good pitches to him [this time]. He looked like the hitter I know."

The Padres are certainly hoping their offense, moving forward, resembles the one that worked at-bats in the last two innings Saturday, the one that bunched hits together and had hard contact. That has been mostly missing in 2014, but on May 3, no one feels like this slow start is irreparable or that the season can't be salvaged.

"I know this thing is not going to last for the whole season," Grandal said.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
Read More: San Diego Padres, Yasmani Grandal, Ian Kennedy, Cameron Maybin, Jedd Gyorko, Seth Smith