SAN DIEGO -- Before they set their sights on the teams in front of them in the National League West and Wild Card standings, the D-backs are going to have to find a way to beat those pesky Padres.
Arizona's struggles against its division rival continued Friday night as Chase Headley's two home runs -- including a go-ahead blast in a tie game in the eighth -- ruined an otherwise impressive five-run comeback and sent the D-backs to a 6-5 loss.
The loss certainly wasn't for lack of trying on the part of the D-Backs, who rallied from a 5-0 deficit, thanks in part to a game-tying two-out, two-run double from Miguel Montero in the eighth. But with time running out on his team's playoff push, even a dramatic comeback in pitcher-friendly Petco Park couldn't serve as consolation for D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, whose team lost a seventh straight game to the Padres and is 4-9 against San Diego this year.
"We're not here for moral victories," Gibson said. "It's very frustrating. They beat us seven games in a row. I mean, c'mon. Seven times in a row. Let's go."
That the D-backs made as valiant an effort as they did at snapping the streak was thanks in large part to the work of their relievers -- at least until that fateful bottom of the eighth. Prior to Headley's solo shot, Arizona's bullpen worked four scoreless innings in relief of rookie starter Tyler Skaggs, who was sick Thursday night and lasted just three innings in the shortest outing of his big league career.
"He didn't throw the ball very good. I know he was sick yesterday, last night," Gibson said. "The ball wasn't coming out of his hand as good as it has in the past and he wasn't executing his pitches where he wanted to throw them, so I made the decision after three innings to get him out of there."
The Padres got to Skaggs for three hits and two runs in the first inning, and the lefty then yielded a three-run blast to the red-hot Headley in the third, a blow that effectively drove Skaggs from the game. Gibson took the ball from his rookie after three innings of work and five runs. Those five runs were as many as Skaggs had given up in the first three starts of his career combined, though the 23-year-old said his illness Thursday had nothing to do with the rough outing.
"It's no excuse. I got sick last night. Felt fine today. There was nothing wrong with me, just pitched bad," Skaggs said.
"It's just one of those days. It seems like every time we play them, it's kind of the same thing."
Skaggs was taken off the hook for the loss by Montero's two-run double in the top of the eighth that pulled Arizona even. That blow capped a five-run comeback keyed by Ryan Wheeler's three RBIs on two doubles -- one in the fifth and one in the seventh -- that brought the D-backs back within striking distance. Wheeler was a late addition to the starting lineup when Paul Goldschmidt was scratched -- also with illness.
Montero and Wheeler each had two hits to pace the D-backs offense, which also got hits from Jason Kubel, Chris Johnson, Adam Eaton and Chris Young, who pinch-hit in the ninth. Those eight hits were slow in coming, as the Arizona lineup didn't get its first hit off Padres' starter Andrew Cashner until the fourth inning.
Yet the four crucial innings of scoreless relief kept the D-backs in the game despite the slow start. Arizona's relief corps blinked in the eighth when Daniel Hernandez left a ball up and over the plate to Headley, a deadly mistake to the man hitting .464 in September. The NL Player of the Month for August sent the ball 408 feet over the fence in straightaway center field for his second homer of the game and 26th of the season.
"It was out over the plate. It doesn't help to fall behind. I didn't really want to walk him, but I guess that's probably what I should've done," Hernandez said. "He's swinging the bat really well. Just sometimes it doesn't go your way -- it seems like it's always against the Padres."
Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.