For the past week, pitching has been the focus for the San Diego Padres as they scrambled to fill two spots in the rotation.
What went under-noticed was that the Padres’ loaded offense has slipped into a major slump.
San Diego goes into the rubber match of its three-game series with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night having scored 13 runs in the first five games of a six-game homestand. That they are 3-2 in those games is a tribute to the Padres’ pitching — particularly the overworked bullpen.
“We just haven’t been able to get enough runs on the board,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said after Tuesday’s 2-1 loss. “We’re just not swinging it and stringing quality at-bats together. We don’t have a lot of guys hot.”
In the first two games against the Pirates, the Padres have three runs on seven hits. They have left just 10 runners on base.
And while the Padres will send out ace right-hander Yu Darvish on Wednesday, the Padres will have to deal with Pirates right-hander JT Brubaker, of whom Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said: “He gets a lot of off-balance swings.”
Darvish is 3-1 this season with a 2.13 ERA. Brubaker is 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA. Given the way both teams are swinging the bat — the Pirates’ two runs Tuesday followed back-to-back shutouts — this shapes up as a pitching duel.
The 6-foot-3, 27-year-old Brubaker will face the Padres for the first time. San Diego’s sixth-round pick from the 2015 draft, he is in his second major-league season. In five starts in 2021, Brubaker has allowed eight runs on 23 hits and five walks in 27 1/3 innings. He has given up four homers.
But Brubaker also has a 6-to-1 strikeouts-to-walk ratio, striking out 30 and walking five. He lost his two most recent starts despite allowing five runs in 12 innings on 12 hits and no walks. The problem is the Pirates scored only three runs in the two games combined.
“I’m gaining confidence in what I can do,” Brubaker said recently. “I’ve had success trying some different things.”
As for Darvish, no pitcher has as many weapons. Personal catcher Victor Caratini has been calling up to seven different kinds of pitches per starts — and those aren’t always the same seven pitches from one game to the next.
Darvish has worked 38 innings in his first six starts, allowing nine runs on 23 hits and 11 walks with 49 strikeouts. He is 3-2 in seven starts against Pittsburgh, with a 2.30 ERA and 44 strikeouts against five walks in 43 innings.
Darvish has allowed one run in each of his past five starts, his ERA falling in each of those outings. Over his past 33 1/3 innings, Darvish has given up five runs on 15 hits and 10 walks for a 1.35 ERA.
“Watching Yu work through a lineup is like watching an artist paint a masterpiece,” Tingler said.
With the way the Padres’ offense is going, Darvish might need to pitch a Mona Lisa on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media