To be sure, the 2016 season of the San Diego Padres was not decided by one inning this weekend. Baseball is 162 games long, of which the Padres have only played 32. They currently sit with a 13-19 record which surprisingly is better than that of the Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, and 2016 favorites Houston Astros. Yet, they have been shut out over a half dozen times and their Opening Day starter has made just that one lonely Opening Day start. Which he lost. So what exactly make this team tick? A bad sign occurred Sunday afternoon as the Padres trailed the Mets 4-3 heading into the 8th inning.
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The Padres had won the first two games of the series and generally have been on a good run. They beat the Dodgers 2 of 3, then the Rockies 2 of 3, and had started out strong beating the Mets twice to open their 4 game series. Then Bartolo Colon pitched and hit his way to a Mets victory Saturday and the Padres headed into Sunday hoping to salvage their third straight series win.
Yoenis Cespedes hit another home run for the Mets and after 4.5 the Padres were down 3-0. Yet they started to fight back for the home crowd. Backup catcher Christian Bethancourt homered to cut the lead to 3-2. Padres reliever Brad Hand allowed a run in the top half of the sixth and the Padres responded in the bottom of the 7th to make the score 4-3. Ryan Buchter continued his strong start (ERA down to 0.61) with a quick top of the 8th and the Padres had the top of their order coming up.
Jerry Blevins came in for the Mets to face the top of the order and immediately gave up a single to Jon Jay, whose average is now up to .283 on the season. Wil Myers greeted the Mets pitching change with another single, and Matt Kemp loaded things up with a third single. This prompted the Mets to make another change as pinch hitter Derek Norris replaced the left-handed Brett Wallace. Bases loaded, nobody out, team down by one. Should be easy to score, right?
The Padres have had 222 at-bats with runners in scoring position. with just 23 with the bases loaded(That is 29th in MLB by the way). With general RISP, they actually have a decent .275 batting average. What is weird is that they have only scored 87 runs in those cases. By the way with the bases loaded those numbers drop down to a BA of .217 and just 10 runs scored. Keep those numbers in mind as we head back to Peto Park.
Derek Norris struck out. No big surprise there given how his year has started. Melvin Upton Jr. who has shown advancement this year and hitting in the middle of the order then popped out to Lucas Duda on the infield fly rule. Now two outs. Now the odds were really against the Padres getting anything done. With RISP w/2 outs, the Padres have only scored 34 runs in 112 AB’s. They have a decent BA of .241 which ranks 12th in MLB but by comparison the Cardinals have had 139 AB with a BA of .288 to bring in 56 runs. See where this is going?
Alexei Ramirez struck out on a foul tip and the inning was over. The Mets were held scoreless by Brandon Maurer in the 9th but the Padres went 1-2-3 in the bottom half, their rally sails squashed an inning before. These are the kind of innings that separate the Cardinals and the Padres, the teams that make it to the playoffs and those that finish at the bottom of the NL West.
Maybe the Padres need to consider some drastic lineup changes? Can they spread out their successful hitters of Jay, Myers, Kemp and Ramirez? Will the return of Yangervis Solarte and Corey Spangenberg spark the offense and help push those runs across when they do get runners in scoring position? I sure hope so. For now innings like what we saw Sunday will torture the fans. We see flashes of optimism in the pitching staff, a back end bullpen with a closer who still hasn’t allowed a run and is perfect in 8 save opportunities, not to mention Wil Myers having the best year of his young career and Matt Kemp looking like the middle of the order leader we hoped for last year. It is still only May – but more innings like what we saw Sunday need to change or it will be a long season for the Padres.