SAN DIEGO -- Bud Black isn't one to single anything out.
But when it comes to the first half of the season, there was one thing that frustrated the Padres manager above the rest.
"I think the inconsistency of the situational hitting has been [most frustrating] if I were to break it down even farther," he said. "When we've won games, we've pitched well and the situational hitting has been there, you know, generally speaking. The situational hitting has been something we've talked about."
Black also included the Padres' strikeout total (753 strikeouts, 8.18 per game) -- which leads the Majors this season -- in that category.
But amid all the first-half struggles, the Padres seemed as though they were making a legitimate push in the National League West standings before the All-Star break.
Then, after winning nine of their last 12, they lost their last five games before the All-Star break to division rivals.
"Bats went cold, there's no doubt about it," he said. "I wish I could explain it more than that. And it's happened a couple of times this year, where collectively, [there was] a little bit of a hitting funk."
In fact, it pretty much happened throughout April, when the Padres' team batting average sat at .211, a whole 17 points below the second-worst team average.
Those are areas that Black is looking for improvement in the remainder of the season.
"To get back on track offensively and get back to the play where the total game is in sync where we were two or three weeks ago," Black said about what he wants to see.
Black said the Padres have struggled in different areas at different times, be it team defense, hitting and even pitching on rare occasions.
But from here on out, there's still one area that needs the most improvement.
"We've got to resurrect the bats, hopefully quickly," Black said. "That's what we're looking for."
Bell reflects on All-Star slide
SAN DIEGO -- Watching Heath Bell burst onto the field in full sprint at the All-Star Game was a perfect representation of what he brings to Padres games when he pitches.
The slide was a perfect representation of him.
"As me closing, I never raise my hands to the sky -- not for the Lord -- but I never go like this," Bell said extending his arms upward and outward, as he would if he were heaping praise on himself. "I don't do anything to kind of like, 'Look at me, look at me, look at me.' Never have.
"I tried to do something fun. ... I'm going to go out there and just be me. I think on the national stage, people learned who Heath Bell is: He's just a guy who wants to have a good time and have fun. But I'm also serious. When you give me the ball, I'm serious."
At that time, Bell didn't have the ball in his hand. When he did, he got the one batter he faced out.
Since the slide, which Bell concocted with the San Diego bullpen prior to the All-Star Game, Bell has received loads of positive feedback from fans, but also his teammates.
"The whole team was busting up laughing," Bell said.
And that includes manager Bud Black.
"I was down at some friends' house ... and they said, 'Hey, Heath's coming in the game,'" Black said. "So I came out from outside and poked in and watched him run in, and I saw him slide. I was laughing like [Pablo] Sandoval was laughing. Even [Giants manager Bruce] Bochy had a smile."
Of course, Black's laugh probably started a half-second after everyone else's -- once Bell got back up.
But Bell, who said he's gotten practically no negative feedback on the slide, accomplished what he wanted to. He added some classic to the Midsummer Classic.
"The All-Star Game is an exhibition game," Bell said. "It does mean stuff for the World Series, but it is an exhibition game. You're out there to have fun and have a good time and put on a good show for the fans. I wanted to put on a really good show.
"I almost jumped in the pool, but I was wired [with a microphone] so I didn't think that would go over very well."
Padres to hold mystery-bag fundraiser
SAN DIEGO -- Want an autographed baseball by a current or former Padre, or even just by another Major League player? Forty dollars will buy that Friday and Saturday.
But there's a catch -- which autograph you get is a mystery.
The San Diego Padres announced Thursday that the Padres Foundation and players' wives will hold a "mystery bag" fundraiser this weekend, with proceeds benefitting Operation Smile, a nonprofit organization providing free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the world.
Each mystery bag sold (while supplies last) will cost $40 and will include an autographed ball. The fundraiser will take place from the time gates open through the third inning Friday and Saturday, and once a bag is opened, it cannot be exchanged for another bag.
Tables will be set up inside the Home Plate and Gaslamp gates, as well as at guest services on Park Boulevard. Cash and checks made payable to the Padres Foundation will be accepted.
Mark Thompson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.