The San Diego Padres began April on a high note following Seth Smith‘s late inning home run off Dodgers’ reliever Brian Wilson to give the Padres their first win of the season on March 31. However, Padres’ fans have found out April Fools was a joke when it pertained to the offense.
Coming into the 2014 season, many national baseball writers predicted the Padres as contenders for the National League West and the wild card. Shortstop Everth Cabrera was returning from his 2013 suspension and starter Andrew Cashner proved down the stretch that he was one of the top pitchers in baseball. In addition, the Padres front office increased the payroll by signing free agent Joaquin Benoit and starter Josh Johnson. With Yonder Alonso, Jedd Gyorko, and Chase Headley healthy, the Padres offense looked formidable and a threat to opposing pitchers.
However, the Padres just finished their current 10-game road trip with a 4-6 record losing the final game to the San Francisco Giants 3-2. The Padres ended the overall month of April with a 13-16 record 4.5 games back from the first place Giants. Even more, the Padres have been plagued by injuries. Johnson is done for the season with Tommy John surgery and Headley has been sidelined with a strained calf.
Padres’ manager Bud Black said: “It’s disappointing. You’ve got to win ball games. Every team has challenges, every team has injuries, every team has things going on within their own club. We’re battling, we’re playing hard, we’re not swinging the bats. I’d like to think the averages will come up.”
The Padres’ offense is off to its worst start in franchise history and they are nearly dead last in almost every MLB category. They’ve hit a combined .217, 15 home runs, and 70 RBI. To put this in comparison, the Chicago White Sox’ rookie slugger Jose Abreu, has already hit 10 home runs and 32 RBI for the month.
The team is struggling to get runners on base and when they are getting runners in scoring position, they can’t seem to get the key hits. Despite Cabrera’s 33 hits and 8 doubles for the month, he has only stolen 4 bases. This Padres’ team is built around small ball requiring the stolen base and base hit to be the contributing factors in run production. However, Headley is on the DL and both Gyorko and Alonso are batting below .200. The club cannot seem to find anyone to be that spark plug to push the club forward.
Yet, there has been some bright spots for the Padres over the course of the month. Most everyone knows pitching is the club’s overwhelming strength, but the Padres’ bullpen has been nothing short of spectacular while the starters continue to keep them in games. Closer Huston Street is 10-for-10 in save opportunities, while starter Ian Kennedy is looking like the Cy Young-candidate from 2012. Nick Vincent has been a surprise for the Padres posting a 1.46 ERA while Tyson Ross looked strong in a number starts at home.
If the Padres hope to turn things around in May, they are going to need a balanced approach each and every night from the offense and defense for the remainder of the season. The club is expecting both Headley and Carlos Quentin to return to the lineup soon, but the month of May tends to separate contenders and pretenders. Right now, the Padres are still within striking distance, but they can easily find themselves out of contention and looking at next season by the end of May.