Padres hit 'hopefully rock bottom' after shutout loss

“We feel like we have a good run left in us," manager Bob Melvin says

August 25th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- It all feels a bit too familiar, doesn’t it?

A year ago, the Padres found themselves in almost precisely the same situation. Presumed to be an October lock, they were suddenly clinging to a playoff spot in late August, playing like anything but a postseason team. Sure enough, their “once-in-a-century” collapse ensued.

This year, the organization did everything in its power to ensure that wouldn’t happen again. They hired Bob Melvin, the steadying managerial presence they needed. They built a deep starting rotation, having learned the importance of that the hard way last September. At the Trade Deadline, they reinforced their roster with a flurry of blockbuster moves, standing in stark contrast to their passive 2021 Deadline.

And, yet, here they are. It’s late August. The playoff race is tightening. And the Padres are teetering again.

“Today,” manager Bob Melvin said, “was hopefully rock bottom.”

The Padres were trounced 7-0 in their series finale with the Guardians on Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park. In a particularly cruel twist, it was right-hander Cal Quantrill, their 2016 first-round pick, who pitched seven shutout innings for Cleveland.

The Padres have now dropped six of their last nine, including four losses on a homestand in which they scored just nine runs across six games. San Diego’s lead over Milwaukee in the race for the final Wild Card spot in the NL sits at one game.

“Time’s running out,” Melvin said. “We feel like we have a good run left in us. We feel like we have a good roster at this point. We just have not shown it.”

struggled mightily on Wednesday afternoon, roughed up for six runs in 3 1/3 innings. He indicated he may have been tipping his pitches when working from the stretch. That claim makes sense. He was sharp for the first three innings before struggling in the fourth with men on base.

“Good job to them for whatever they had,” Snell said. “… The way the ball was coming out, I shouldn’t be getting hit like that.”

Snell has been mostly excellent lately. The rotation, on the whole, has been solid. It’s the bats that have been the weak link.

The Padres, of course, are without slugger Fernando Tatis Jr., who they’d long hoped would rescue them in their season-long search for power. They’ve also been without superstar Juan Soto for the past two days, as he battles back tightness.

Even still, some of the numbers are baffling. The Padres went just 4-for-38 with runners in scoring position on the homestand.

“We all need to take a look in the mirror and find a way to get this thing done and find ways to win,” Wil Myers said. “And, honestly, just find ways to hit with runners in scoring position. At the end of the day, that’s what it is. We’ve got to find a way to drive those runs in.”

It’s been a season-long theme. No team in the Majors has stranded more runners than the Padres. 

For much of the year, they had a roster full of pesky hitters who were adept at reaching base, but were lacking in the slugging department. At the Trade Deadline, they landed Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury, enough to figure they’d resolved those issues. 

Now, here they are, three weeks later, and their RISP woes seem more pronounced than ever.

“It stings,” Melvin said. “It hurts to play like this today. We didn’t play well in all facets of the game.”

Really, they haven’t played well in a couple months. Since they moved into first place in the NL West on June 16 with a four-game sweep of the Cubs, the Padres have gone 27-33. How do they snap out of this funk?

“Well, you continue to stay positive, continue to go out there every game and feel like you’re going to win,” Melvin said. “The starters that we run out, it should suggest that. But like any team, when you’re in a bad stretch, you have to go out there and do it. 

“You can’t just hope it happens. It’s not going to happen magically. You have to go out there with some fire.”

The most troubling part is that the Padres haven’t picked up any ground against sub-.500 competition. They went 5-5 during their recent stretch of games against the Nationals and Marlins, and now head to Kansas City for three games against the fourth-place Royals.

A daunting September featuring nine games against the Dodgers in addition to series against the contending Cardinals, Mariners and White Sox looms. The schedule lined up similarly in 2021. The Padres faltered in August, then crashed in September.

“I think a lot of last year was due to not being healthy from a pitching standpoint,” Myers said. “I don’t necessarily know that they’re very comparable. If anything, we’ve got the experience from last year. But we’re a different team in a different situation than we were last year. We’ve got to find a way to just be better.”

Maybe this is the test. In the standings, the circumstances look markedly similar to 2021. If things are truly different a year later, the Padres have six weeks left to prove it.