Despite losing streak, San Diego believes it can win in second half
SAN DIEGO -- It's always been Huston Street's policy to avoid looking too far ahead, so the Padres' closer might be the wrong guy to ask what the second half has in store for San Diego.
"I've learned not to make predictions because of the unpredictability of baseball, the nature of how one swing and one good start can change things," Street said.
One thing is for certain: The All-Star break couldn't arrive quickly enough for the Padres (42-54), who finished the first half with a 10-1 victory over the Giants on Sunday, but prior to that had lost four in a row and 14 out of 15.
Even with that victory, the Padres enter the break having lost 18 of their last 22 games, with one of the losses coming on Saturday when they were no-hit by the Giants' Tim Lincecum.
How can this trend change?
"Consistent play at the plate and on the mound," said Padres manager Bud Black. "… It's no secret. This game is built around consistent performance. But where we are now? We're not a team that's playing well."
To be sure, the first half was anything but a bore. It was a wild ride that saw the team endure more twists and turns than the historic Giant Dipper Roller Coaster at nearby Belmont Park.
• The Padres began the season by getting smoked by the Mets on Opening Day, 11-2. This was the start of a 5-15 stretch that had the team 8 1/2 games out of first place by April 22 -- yes, April 22.
• Then the pitching got better, especially from the rotation. The team started to score runs and, lo and behold, the Padres went 33-19 over their next 52 games to inch within a game of the D-backs in the NL West.
MVP: Everth Cabrera A first-time All-Star, Cabrera has been a catalyst for the offense and offers plus speed and defense.
Cy Young: Eric Stults The soft stuff plays well, as Stults shows you don't have to throw hard to be steady and dependable.
Rookie: Jedd Gyorko Missed time with a groin strain, but showed early that he belongs at this level.
Top reliever: Joe Thatcher Rough start for the bullpen, but lefty specialist has been tough on the game's best lefties.
• Then came a 10-game losing streak, nine of the losses coming on a grueling and hot and sticky road trip to Miami, Boston and Washington.
Get all that?
"At 5-15, everyone wanted to say it was over, that it was the worst year ever," Street said. "Then 60 games later, all of a sudden, everyone wanted us to be buyers and is talking positive. But then you lose 10 games in a row and people think it's the end of the world and you're horrible again.
"I've learned not to be that fickle."
Street said the key for this team is to continue to plug away. The right pieces are here, he insists. In the wild NL West, the Padres aren't, and shouldn't, be discounted.
"The one thing I would tell guys in here is just to play today," Street said, motioning to the clubhouse. "Today is the only thing that matters."
Tomorrow is pretty important, too, especially if San Diego wants to get back to .500 and get back into contention in a division that no one -- to this point, at least -- wants to run away with.
Players to watch in second half
Yonder Alonso Was on way to a big year when broken bone in hand sidelined him in June. He's healthy now.
Chase Headley Slow start, but remember what he did in second half in '12? (.308/23 HRs/73 RBIs).
Andrew Cashner First full season as a starter, continues to learn on the go. He has been very good at times.
"It's time to go," said Padres catcher Nick Hundley.
What will it take?
Better pitching, to start.
The Padres have long been among the league leaders in team ERA, but they have scuffled during the first half. The result from the starters has often been a mixed bag of results. Clayton Richard, who in 2012 tied his career high with 14 wins, is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
The bullpen has struggled as well, as Street has allowed 10 home runs and Luke Gregerson has scuffled to find the right rotation on his slider.
"I hope so," Black said when he was asked if the pitching will be better in the second half. "We didn't pitch well in April, we pitched much better in the middle part of May through June, and here in July, we haven't pitched as well as we're capable of."
Improved health could help the Padres moving forward.
First baseman Yonder Alonso got off to a very good start but missed the next 34 games with a broken bone in his right hand. Rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko hit .303 with six home runs in May, but landed on the disabled list in June with a strained right groin.
Third baseman Chase Headley missed the first 14 games of the year recovering from a finger injury in Spring Training. Left fielder Carlos Quentin missed time with a sore left shoulder. Catcher Yasmani Grandal is out for the season with ligament damage to his right knee. Center fielder Cameron Maybin played in 14 games before suffering a knee injury.
The good news was the depth the organization cultivated paid off, as Kyle Blanks stepped in for Alonso, Logan Forsythe stepped in for Gyorko and the collective effort of the outfielders made up for the loss of Maybin.
"The big part of the entire group is the great flexibility it brings," Black said. "There's many components to sustaining winning. But it will help us if we get all the guys back we expect to get back and they're playing like they can."