Padres hit a speed bump while inching closer to “must win or else” territory

If things don't turn around, the Padres season may be in danger.

SAN DIEGO — It was not the result the San Diego Padres needed Monday when they lost 8-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had been in a funk since the last time the teams met.

The Pirates swept the Padres in Pittsburgh in a three-game series on June 27-29.

“Every major league team presents challenges,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “Obviously, they’ll have a little confidence beating us over there. They haven’t played too terribly well here recently, but early on, they had some really good swings and capitalize when they needed to.”

The woes continued Monday night as pitcher You Darvish was off his game. He gave up seven runs, eight hits, including four home runs, in 4 1/3 innings.

“Just not his best command,” Melvin said. “You look at the ball-strike ratio early on, it was pretty close, which is not like him at all. So, very rarely do you see an outing like that out of him. So, every now and then, it happens.”

There are 61 games left in the season and the Padres (48-53) probably need to win at least 40 games to try to sneak into a wild-card playoff spot.

It is starting to get dicey for them. They just returned from a 5-5 trip, that included losing two of three to the Detroit Tigers.

“Besides the first series, we had a really, really good road trip,” outfielder Juan Soto said. “So I think it was good enough to come back home.”

On July 15, the second game of the trip, the Padres held a three-run lead against the Philadelphia Phillies going into the sixth inning but lost 6-4. Two games later, they lost in 12 innings to the Phillies, which moved their record in extra innings to 0-9 this season.

There was some fantastic play from Fernando Tatis Jr., Soto and Manny Machado at certain times. Soto hit two home runs against the Tigers on July 21 and Machado has hit eight homers in the last 17 games.

“We have a good team,” Tatis said. “We definitely have every guy we need over here to go out and do it. It’s just more about us, how personal it’s going to be.”

Right now, no one on this team is hotter than Machado. This month, his OPS has improved from .678 to .783. In that span, he is hitting .443 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs.

“Just continue with the process, continue with your work and in the long haul, things will even out, so just sticking to the plan,” Machado said about his hot streak.

For the Padres, this will be more about the “other guys.” They need Jake Cronenworth, Trent Grisham, Ha-Seong Kim and others step up, which is how they knocked off the Mets and Dodgers in last season’s playoffs.

The trade deadline is a week away. The biggest question is whether the Padres will be buyers or sellers. There has been speculation that starting pitcher Blake Snell and closer Josh Hader could be on the way out.

Both have played at an All-Star level this season and their contracts expire after this season.

“We believe in the guys that are in here; we believe that we got to go out there and win tonight’s game; we can’t control who gets traded and who doesn’t,” Machado said.

None of the players want to play general manager. They know they have to win games.

It starts in this home stretch because it could dictate what road the Padres take moving forward.

They have a six-home-game stretch against the Pirates and then the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. The last time Pittsburgh faced off against San Diego, they swept the Padres after having lost 12 of 13 games. Coming into this series, the Pirates had lost 13 of 17 since that sweep.

It seems as if the Padres are in unison about not focusing on the trade deadline, catching up in the wild-card standings or even the next game.

“We just got to go out there and win; I do not know if we are going to be buyers or sellers. … I’m not paying attention to that,” Tatis said.

Soto said something similar.

“The same thing we’ve been trying since day one, win games,” Soto said.

Said Machado: “Win tonight and take care of business tonight and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.”

Unfortunately, the inconsistencies continue showing up for this team. One night it’s the pitching, another night it could be lack of offense or mental mistakes. On Monday night, it was a little bit of everything.

The urgency has to kick in at some point.

“Going out there every single day, playing every day, you get so focused on result based, you forget about the little things about just going out there and competing and trusting your plan,” Machado said.

Before Monday’s loss, the Padres were starting to make some headway in the wild-card standings. But things are starting to get tighter. If they want to make the postseason, they must win more consistently, or changes could be coming.

“Continue to baseball, we’ve been playing,” Machado said. “The last couple weeks and play the best baseball we possibly can every single night.”