Padres’ roller coaster season could hinge on crucial road trip

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The San Diego Padres need to start gathering some victories and this mini road trip might be the jump start they need.

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres were considered World Series contenders before the season started because of their roster, the signing of Xander Bogaerts, and the return of Fernando Tatis Jr.

It hasn’t panned out.

They are coming off a series against the last-place Washington Nationals, where they lost two out of three games. They gave fans hope on Friday, hitting three home runs and outscoring the Nationals 13-3. They would be outscored 10-3 in the next two games.

“Lack of fight—I don’t even feel any of that. You know?” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told reporters Sunday. “But maybe trying to do too much might be one.

“C’mon, man. We’re playing the Nationals. I don’t think they have playoff aspirations. I mean, they obviously have a young team, and they fight. They do fight. But I wouldn’t say anyone picked the Nationals to be in the playoffs. So you have to beat the teams that you have to beat.”

There are some positives, like the starting pitching of the Padres has been phenomenal with Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Michael Wacha. After a slow start, Blake Snell has heated up and been carving up batters.

The pitching has combined to have an ERA of 3.18 since May 1st, which is the best in MLB, plus the best WHIP at 1.13.

One negative is the inconsistencies in the bats. No one on the team is hitting above .300, leaving players on base, and they need to put up more runs at crucial times.

That has drawn out questions on why the players are just not hitting consistently. Are bench coach Ryan Flaherty and hitting coaches Scott Coolbaugh and Oscar Bernard the problem?

“They [hitting coaches] give us all the information we need,” Manny Machado explained. “Ultimately, it’s what we do out there. We do what we can control, which is to go out there and hit the ball. You can’t put so much emphasis on it’s their fault. If you’re going to put any fault on anyone, it’s going to be us; we hold the cards, we hold the bat, we make the outs.”

It feels like the first quarter of the season. The theme has been, “Once they start hitting, the wins will come.” It hasn’t come to fruition. They are averaging .232 (second worst in the MLB), they are bringing in 4.31 runs per game (fifth lowest in the MLB), and a .204 average with RISP (last in MLB).

The team got hit with the boo birds on Sunday, and if this continues, expect them to continue to rain down.

Fans are trying to make heads or tails of it. Some blame general manager A.J. Preller for overspending on players that haven’t contributed as expected. Some are going after manager Bob Melvin and the hitting coaches.

So who is to blame?

“It’s not about the managers, coaches, or pitching staff; it’s about the players,” Machado said.

Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto have been the driving forces of consistency as of late. Both have hit numerous home runs and get on base often. The rest of the team needs to follow. 

It is not just “as soon as the team starts hitting, they will win” that has people believing they can turn it around, but it is also “if they can just get on a run.” The team has abundant talent, but it is about putting everything together before it is too late.

Too late meaning the team loses interest or heart, which doesn’t concern their manager.

“No, that won’t happen,” Melvin said. “That won’t happen because there’s a lot of baseball left. When you go on a run, you’re right back in it. So, it doesn’t look great. There are a lot of teams ahead of us as far as playoff teams at this point. But there is a run that could get us right back into it quickly. We just haven’t done it. That’s the hardest part at this point.”

They have a big opportunity to begin a run this week as they head out on a mini road trip, first against the Cincinnati Reds, then the Pittsburgh Pirates, before coming home to a big matchup against the Los Angeles Angels.

The Reds are atop the NL Central and feature rookie Elly De La Cruz, who has taken MLB by storm. It will be a good measuring stick to see where this Padres team is. 

The MLB All-Star break is quickly approaching, and they need to stack up some victories because of their current position at 37-41, which is fourth in the West and 6.5 games out of the wild card.

“There’s not going to be a give up here,” Melvin said. “We’re going to continue to fight as hard as we can and know that with the talent that we have, we have the ability to win a lot of games.”