Padres bullpen falters vs. hot D-backs
Relievers allow eight runs over final three innings of loss
PHOENIX -- A year ago, the differences between the Padres and Diamondbacks, at least in the standings, were so negligible at times that the only day worth checking the division lead was probably the final day of the regular season.
And even that wasn't good enough for the Padres.
Move ahead to the present, and the chasm between the two teams, albeit still in April, could not be more extensive, not in the standings and not on the field, where the Diamondbacks are showing their meteoric rise to stardom in 2007 was no fluke.
The last two days, the Diamondbacks (13-4) have shown as much at the Padres' expense, though their 10-3 victory over San Diego on Saturday at Chase Field was skewed some by late miscues by the Padres' defense and some misgivings by the bullpen.
But there's certainly no denying one thing: "They're the hottest team in baseball," Padres pitcher Chris Young said. "They're a good hitting team. They showed us last year they were the team to beat in the division. They've got another year under their belt, and they believe in themselves."
The Padres (8-10), who trail the Diamondbacks by more games now (5 1/2) than they did all of last season, finally broke their home run drought that had extended to 106 consecutive innings, as Paul McAnulty and Brian Giles each hit home runs.
Then there was Young, who was coming off a start in Los Angeles where he allowed six runs in three innings. But Young, who walked the first two batters he faced Saturday, settled down and looked a lot more like the pitcher who had the best ERA in the Major Leagues in the first half of 2007.
And still it wasn't enough, as the Padres dropped their fourth consecutive game with their defense and bullpen letting them down late, as the Diamondbacks quickly turned around the 3-1 deficit thanks in large part to a six-run eighth inning.
The Padres' bullpen allowed three earned runs on six hits Saturday as its ERA climbed to 5.34 this season. Joe Thatcher took the loss, dropping the bullpen's overall record to 1-7 after 18 games.
Leading 3-2 in the seventh inning and with Thatcher in relief of Young, Justin Upton got on base with an infield single as shortstop Callix Crabbe, giving Khalil Greene a day off, couldn't get rid of the ball in time and then threw high.
Thatcher then got the left-handed-hitting Stephen Drew to chase a pitch down and away that Drew got enough of, as the ball carried to left field toward McAnulty, who broke in initially and then retreated as the ball glanced off his glove for an RBI double.
"The ball carries here in Arizona. Mac broke in, the ball stayed in the air and he got a piece of it. He just didn't make the play," Padres manager Bud Black said.
Upton scored on that play, and the Diamondbacks then took a 4-3 lead later in the inning when leadoff hitter Chris Young singled to left field.
In the eighth inning with two outs, a run in and the bases loaded, Young bounced a ball at Greene, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement. But the ball skipped right under Greene's glove, allowing two runs to score for a 7-3 lead.
Arizona would score three more runs in the inning.
"With Greene in that play, it ended up being big. Sometimes when you come in late like that in a double-switch, the ball gets on you a little bit. You're just not in the flow of the game," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.
As for San Diego's Young, he settled down shortly after walking Arizona's Young and Byrnes on 12 pitches to begin the game, including one pitch that sailed over the head of Josh Bard, umpire Ed Hickox and hit the screen behind the plate, the result of the dry Arizona air which would dry Young's fingers as he gripped the ball.
But Young conquered his early control problems and walked just one more batter over six innings. He left with a lead built on two home runs and not too much else, as San Diego's offense vanished over the final four innings with just one hit.
"We haven't been good at getting a lead and tacking onto it," Giles said. "We've got to be more productive. We've got to be good on the base paths and aggressive at the plate. We're not helping our pitching."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.