'Lacking a lot right now': SD watches WC lead slip

September 16th, 2022

PHOENIX -- Mid-September, in the thick of a postseason push, isn’t the time to have a game like this. Especially not twice.

The Padres’ lineup took on a D-backs starter making his Major League debut. The end result? A shutout loss. And it happened two times in a span of 11 days.

On Thursday night, right-hander Drey Jameson tossed seven dominant innings and was instrumental in handing San Diego a 4-0 loss at Chase Field. The Padres finished with only three hits and went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, failing to capitalize on the two instances in which they had a man on second.

“When you score no runs, [Jameson] goes in his Major League debut, he gets seven innings, two hits, you don’t score -- it looks bad,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But he didn’t pitch bad; that’s nothing against their guy. He pitched well. But we’re lacking a lot right now.”

On Sept. 5, San Diego was blanked in a 5-0 loss to Arizona at Petco Park in which righty Ryne Nelson also went seven sterling innings in his first big league outing. In the nine-game stretch bookended by those shutout losses, the Padres have scored two or fewer runs five times and averaged 2.9 runs per contest.

San Diego (78-66), which has lost seven of its past 11, has only a 1 1/2-game lead in the race for the third and final National League Wild Card berth over Milwaukee (76-67), which was idle.

Not only is Melvin unsatisfied with the lack of runs on the scoreboard, but he also wasn’t pleased with the Padres’ approach at the plate.

“Very frustrating. It didn’t even feel like we even put up a fight,” Melvin said. “Can’t play this way, especially this time of year.”

Manny Machado, who went 0-for-4 and is batting .205 (9-for-44) this month, couldn’t explain why San Diego’s offense is scuffling this much. But he knows the team needs to be better.

“Just angry,” Machado said. “Every game counts. We’ve got to win games.”

If Sean Manaea had gotten run support, he pitched well enough to win in his first start since Sept. 3. The 30-year-old left-hander was skipped the last time through the Padres’ rotation, as he had an 8.36 ERA over his first eight outings of the second half, only two of which were quality starts.

After a strong relief appearance against the Dodgers on Saturday -- a scoreless inning with two strikeouts -- Manaea tossed five solid innings vs. the D-backs, allowing only two runs on three hits and striking out three.

Now opting to pitch out of the stretch at all times (not only with runners on base), Manaea leaned on his sinker even more than usual, throwing it for 63 of his 76 pitches. However, two of them left the park for a pair of solo homers by Ketel Marte and Emmanuel Rivera in the fourth, the only damage Manaea allowed.

But Manaea was outdueled by Jameson, who allowed only two hits -- both courtesy of Brandon Drury, who singled in the second and doubled in the fifth in his return from the concussion injured list. After Jameson’s departure, the Padres’ only hit was a Ha-Seong Kim leadoff single in the eighth.

Juan Soto (now in a 1-for-29 slump since Sept. 5), Machado and Jake Cronenworth went down in order in the ninth against right-hander Reyes Moronta.

“We feel like we have a really good team, and we’re not showing it,” said leadoff hitter Jurickson Profar, who went 0-for-3. “[Melvin] wants us, and he expects us, to go and get it done. And we can. If he doesn’t believe in us, it’s OK to lose games like this. But he knows, and we know, that we have a team to do way better than this.”

Yet, this wasn’t the first time -- or even the second -- that the Padres couldn’t solve an inexperienced D-backs rookie.

The four most recent Arizona pitchers to make their first career starts against San Diego all had scoreless outings. Before Nelson and Jameson, it was Taylor Widener (six innings on April 4, 2021) and Tyler Gilbert (a no-hitter on Aug. 14, 2021).

However, the two most recent occurrences have come at a time when San Diego has needed to make a strong push into the postseason. And with 18 games to go in the regular season, there isn’t enough time to have too many more showings like this.

“We’re not doing what we’re supposed to do as a team,” Profar said. “We just have to keep pushing. Come tomorrow and give it our all. We can’t just give up right now. We’re right there. We control our own destiny, and we’ve got to come tomorrow and try to win games.”