The San Diego Padres are reaching that point of the season where it might be more important to worry about the teams behind them in the National League standings than the ones in front of them.
The Padres are eight games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West and four games behind the wild-card leading Los Angeles Dodgers as they enter a four-game road series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday in Phoenix.
The good news for San Diego is that the Cincinnati Reds have dropped three straight games. So suddenly, the Padres hold a 4 1/2-game edge over the Reds in the battle for the second wild-card berth.
Focusing on that lead might be a more prudent approach when considering Thursday’s contest is the first of a stretch in which 12 of 18 games are on the road.
The Padres also are bracing for the return of NL Most Valuable Player candidate Fernando Tatis Jr., and he might not be the full-time shortstop when he returns.
Tatis, who is dealing with a left shoulder injury, has worked out in the outfield in recent days. The first-time All-Star could be stationed in right field when he returns.
“I always played outfield since I was a kid,” the 22-year-old Tatis said. “I’ve got no doubt I could do it.”
San Diego manager Jayce Tingler said the club is still analyzing the situation.
“The reality is there’s risk in every position,” Tingler said prior to Wednesday’s 7-0 home loss to the Miami Marlins. “We’ve got to weigh those things. … It’s not a clear-cut decision by any means.”
Tatis hasn’t played since July 30, but still leads the NL with 31 homers and 23 steals. He is batting .292 with 70 RBIs in 87 games.
Tatis is batting .343 with four homers and eight RBIs in 35 at-bats against the Diamondbacks this season. San Diego is 8-4 against Arizona.
The Diamondbacks own the worst record (35-80) in the majors. They have dropped four in a row and nine of their past 11 games after falling 7-2 to the host San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.
Arizona was just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and also lost outfielder Kole Calhoun to a strained left hamstring. Calhoun injured the same hamstring earlier this season and underwent surgery that sidelined him 2 1/2 months.
“He just felt some discomfort in that area,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”
The Diamondbacks and Padres met last weekend in San Diego. The Padres won two of the three games.
One of the contests was San Diego’s 6-2 victory on Saturday when Yu Darvish of the Padres and Taylor Widener of the Diamondbacks both received no-decisions. The two right-handers square off again on Thursday.
Darvish (7-6, 3.43 ERA) matched his season high of 12 strikeouts without issuing a walk in seven innings. The five-time All-Star allowed two runs and four hits.
Despite the stellar effort, he is 0-4 with 5.59 ERA over his past seven starts.
Darvish, who turns 35 on Monday, has a 3.57 ERA in three no-decisions against Arizona this season. Overall, he is 3-1 with a 3.17 ERA in eight career outings.
Asdrubal Cabrera (9-for-27) has hit three homers off Darvish while Calhoun (8-for-22) and David Peralta (6-for-16) each have hit two.
Widener (1-4, 4.89) struck out seven in five innings in a no-decision opposite Darvish on Saturday. He allowed two runs on four hits and two walks.
The 26-year-old Widener beat the Padres on April 4 in his first start of the season. He gave up three hits in six shutout innings.
Eric Hosmer is 3-for-5 with two homers against Widener and Manny Machado (1-for-7) also has taken him deep.
–Field Level Media