Padres come up empty in New York
Banks solid, but club can't get it going while losing all three
NEW YORK -- From where he sits each game, Padres hitting coach Wally Joyner does not see a group of hitters heading to the plate with a bad approach to what they want to accomplish each at-bat.
"I think that we have a good approach," Joyner said Thursday, after the Padres dropped their third consecutive game to the Yankees, 2-1. "It's just a matter of staying confident throughout the at-bat."
To be sure, confidence, hits, solid contact and, ultimately, victories, were in short supply Thursday at Yankee Stadium, this week in the Bronx and largely during a miserable trip on which the Padres went 1-5 in Interleague Play. San Diego is now 2-7 overall against teams from the American League, with nine more games still to come.
The Padres, who just a week ago headed to the road having won seven of their past eight games, now return home coming off a stretch where they struck out 40 times in their past three games and 60 times in their past five games.
"I think they're battling," Joyner said of the Padres' hitters. "I think they're frustrated. ... They want to do well, they want to contribute."
But accomplishing as much during this road trip wasn't easy, especially considering the run of pitchers the Padres (31-43) faced -- Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia on Sunday, Andy Pettitte and his nasty cutter on Tuesday, Joba Chamberlain on Thursday, and in each of the three games, a bullpen full of relievers with power arms.
No, it certainly wasn't a good mix for a San Diego offense that has often struggled badly with getting hits with runners in scoring position, with the strikeout often being a main culprit as to why innings and rallies often end with little or no runs.
Take Thursday, for example.
Before Chamberlain -- the hard-throwing 22-year-old who was making his fourth start since being moved into the rotation -- found a niche Thursday, he ran into big trouble in the second inning against the Padres. Or at least that's how it appeared.
Chamberlain, who finished with a career-high nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings, allowed consecutive hits to Adrian Gonzalez (single) and Chase Headley (ground-rule double) before loading the bases with a walk to Tony Clark.
But what appeared to be a big inning in the works fizzled quickly when, after Scott Hairston struck out, Gonzalez was thrown out at the plate trying to advance on a ball that Chamberlain bounced just past catcher Jose Molina.
Khalil Greene then went down on strikes, thus ending the inning and an opportunity to get to Chamberlain.
"We've seen that in stretches -- where we're prone to the strikeout," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We have got to do well with the two-strike approach."
The Padres scored their only run in the fourth inning on an RBI double by Clark, though Gonzalez was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a ground ball to Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Chamberlain, who allowed just four hits, was pulled with two outs in the sixth inning after striking out Headley for the second time. He threw 100 pitches, which is the most pitches he's thrown in his young career. He left to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 54,362.
"Joba's got a chance to be special," Clark said. "It's not often you have a guy elevate his game in situations that can be difficult."
The other guy wasn't too bad himself, which is why Clark pointed out the performance that Padres pitcher Josh Banks (2-1) had before heaping praise upon the Yankees' hard-throwing right-hander, who frequently hit 97 mph.
Banks won't often be confused with Chamberlain, though he's certainly given the Padres a big boost since the $20,000 waiver-wire claim was put in the starting rotation last month after injuries besieged the staff.
Banks allowed two runs on four hits and one walk in 5 1/3 innings, walking a tightrope himself in the first inning, when the first two hitters reached base before he was able to get Bobby Abreu on a fly ball for the first out, followed by strikeouts of Rodriguez and Jason Giambi to end the inning.
It wasn't so much the Yankees' bats that hurt Banks as it was their legs, as New York swiped four bases, two of which eventually led to runs. The last occurred during the sixth inning when Derek Jeter singled, stole second, moved to third on a ground ball and scored on a Rodriguez single to left.
"It's always been my Achilles' heel," Banks said of his high leg kick that often gives baserunners a better chance at getting a good jump. "I've always tried to be quick, but then I rushed myself. They must have gotten good jumps."
Preventing stolen bases was problematic last season for a Padres team that won 89 games, thus making it not such a big problem after all. Not so much this season, as pitchers like Banks, Greg Maddux, Chris Young and Jake Peavy, to some extent, have struggled at times keeping runners honest.
"We have some guys who are a little too deliberate to the plate," Black said.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.