Everyone knew the Padres weren't going to finish the season 156-6. They were going to lose another game in 2010. I think most of us, however, figured it wouldn't be yesterday, especially after Kyle Blanks doubled in two to give the team a 4-2 lead after 5 1/2 innings.
Scott Rolen's HR made the game close after 6, but after turning the contest over to the bullpen one had to like the Padres' chances. Going into Sunday, the Padres bullpen was one of only 2 in the NL not to have lost a game (the other? Pittsburgh. Go figure), the third lowest ERA (3.02), and the best Batting Average Against (.190). Looking good.
Unfortunately, Mike Adams couldn't get the game to Heath Bell. Cincinnati scored 2 in the eighth, and won 5-4. Bye-bye, 8 game winning streak.
You gotta like where the Padres are now, though. Form 3-6 to 11-7, and the best record in the NL. The team is pitching its butt off, and they are getting just enough production offensively (10th in the NL with a .736 OPS). There is some cause for concern, though: Padre starters aren't getting deep enough into games.
They have the second-best ERA in the league for starters (2.75, second only to the Giants), but the starters are averaging 5.2 innings per start. They can't get out of the sixth inning. And, they're throwing a ton of pitches - 1630 to be exact, in 98.1 innings worked by the starters. It roughly works out to 17 pitches an inning, or 93 pitches an outing.
Here's the problem. San Diego has one of the best bullpens in the NL. Local media-types extol the virtues of Padre pitchers making it through 6, then turning the game over to Gregerson for the seventh, Adams the eighth, and Bell the ninth. You can't do that every, single, game. Assuming the Padres play .600 ball the rest of the way, that's 86 more wins, and almost 100 appearances by those three guys.
So you don't turn the game over to the Big Three every game. Even so, the bullpen will be overworked come August, and their strength will be a liability.
Padre pitchers have got to get deeper into games. It seems criminal that a ML pitcher, the ace of this staff, can't get out of the sixth inning with leads of 10 and 14 runs, respectively. One way to do that is to stop working so many deep counts on every hitter. I lost track of the number of 3-2 counts Kevin Correia threw in his Saturday start. He is far from alone in the deep-count doghouse, but he's my best example.
Hey, this is fixable. They just need to attack the strike zone a little better. And there'll be more long winning streaks this summer.