Questions spark on playoff future after Padres collapse against Nationals

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Fresh off a brutal loss to the Washington Nationals, who are roughly 40+ games under the .500 mark, I should be sitting here writing a Padres Postgame piece to recap the game in its entirety.

I’m not.

It’s pretty inexcusable, unfortunately, that through eight games against two below-average teams, the Padres post a 3-4 record and find themselves gasping for victory at times. Their offense has flashed signs of greatness, erupting for 10 runs twice in this stretch, but has also disappeared at the flip of a switch.

In tonight’s loss, San Diego mustered one hit against Anibal Sanchez, who entered today’s outing with a 7.20 ERA, and they squandered a bases-loaded, one-out situation with the top of the lineup at the plate. It’s not the first time they’ve done that in recent memory, as the Padres lit multiple run scoring opportunities on fire on their east coast trip.

Don’t forget that amidst all of this, Yu Darvish hurled 8 1/3 dominant innings only to be charged with three earned runs and a loss. The Padres’ offense wasted the best start they’ve gotten from a starting pitcher all season because they couldn’t score more than a run against the worst pitching staff in baseball.

At some point it goes further than just the normalities of the game of baseball. There will be times, given the sheer success rate and advantage that pitching has in this game, where you will flat-out fail and that’s okay. But what the disappearing act that the Padres’ offense has shown throughout this stretch isn’t normal. Failing this often with runners in scoring position is documented evidence of no approach and lack of planning at the plate.

The other thing is this: the Padres are failing to take advantage of the easiest part of their entire schedule. They entered this month with the league’s weakest strength of schedule and are 8-9 as a result. The only team they’ve played with a winning record up to this point is the Dodgers, the Giants were below. 500 when that series began, and they’ve managed to play to a sub-.500 record this far into the month. Throughout the rest of the month, San Diego squares off against Washington, Cleveland, Kansas City, and San Francisco.

Take that knowledge and parlay it to this: the Padres have one of the game’s hardest schedules after August is over. They play the Dodgers NINE times, while also drawing Seattle, St. Louis, Colorado in Coors, the White Sox, and San Francisco. Once this month ends, the Padres are set to play 20 games against teams with winning records.

Playoff caliber teams beat opponents that don’t compare to them on the field, and it’s not even the Dodgers at this point. The Atlanta Braves faced the Marlins in a five-game set without using a single one of their top pitchers and took four out of five. St. Louis just crushed Colorado over their three-game set at home, and the Philadelphia Phillies swept through Washington, while taking two-of-three against the Marlins and Reds, respectively, in recent series.

See a trend here?

When it comes to baseball, you’re going to lose games against inferior competition – it’s a long season and that’s just the nature of the game. But when stuff like this continues to happen on a year-to-year basis and your payroll starts with the number “two” in front of it, a track record of inconsistencies starts to pile up.

Honestly, flashes that last year’s collapse in the second-half may not have been a fluke are starting to pile up. Josh Bell has a 43 wRC+ since coming over to San Diego and Josh Hader can’t be trusted to close games at the time being for this club. Don’t forget that the team’s 23-year-old superstar was recently suspended for 80-games and has handled the public relations portion of that pretty terribly.

The bottom line is that, right now, the San Diego Padres aren’t a playoff team and they’re firmly heading in the direction of missing the postseason for the second straight year. Failing to capitalize against the weakest part of your schedule with tougher competition on the horizon doesn’t look like it’ll equate to much success for the Friars.