SAN DIEGO: At times, the San Diego Padres have fielded baseball’s worst offense. As recently as last month, they’ve boasted one of the game’s best.
They’ve cycled through as many starting pitchers as anyone in the game. They’ve limped on without key contributors in the lineup. They’ve seen their prized first baseman develop into an All-Star before their very eyes. They’ve spent big on amateur talent.
Yet even in a mixed bag of a campaign, the truth at the season’s midpoint is this: The Padres are sellers as the trade market picks up and they’re on pace for 70 wins — their lowest in eight years — even after Melvin Upton Jr.’s third walk-off homer sent the Padres to a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees on Sunday.
“Obviously, we’d like to be more in the hunt than we are,” Padres rookie skipper Andy Green said. “That’s the frustrating part. I think everybody wants to be competing for the NL West title and not saying goodbye to your closer who has been lights out. That said, we’ve endured a lot.
“We kind of knew going into the season that we couldn’t sustain injuries very well from a depth perspective and from this point in time that’s what we’re building in the organization.”
The Padres will get some of that depth back Sunday when right-hander Andrew Cashner returns from his second trip to the disabled list. They’ve been without 2014 All-Star Tyson Ross since his Opening Day assignment, have had two injury replacements — Robbie Erlin and Cesar Vargas — succumb to their own injuries and have depended on a number of newcomers to fill out their rotation.
Drew Pomeranz is has been the best of that bunch.
He entered Saturday’s start with opponents hitting .190 against him — third-lowest among qualifying NL-starters — and continued a dark-horse All-Star bid by upping his latest scoreless inning streak to 13 before the Yankees broke through in the sixth.
Jacoby Ellsbury doubled over Matt Kemp’s head in right-center, Brett Gardner dropped a bunt single in front of third baseman Yangervis Solarte and Starlin Castro gave the Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova (5 1/3 IP, 1 ER) a 1-0 lead on a run-scoring groundout to second base.
Pomeranz would have been in line for his eighth loss in 16 starts despite a 2.65 ERA if the Padres hadn’t immediately answered with Wil Myers’ walk, his 13th steal and Matt Kemp’s RBI double off right-hander Dellin Betances to tie the game.
Pomeranz turned in one more scoreless frame and left with one hit allowed on five hits and no walks over seven innings. He struck out seven and remained 7-7 in his first significant stay in a rotation and watched from the dugout when Upton ambushed Andrew Miller’s first pitch for a 440-foot game-winner.
Then again, Pomeranz might have a few more wins on his All-Star resume with a bit more run support over the course of a season in which the Padres have been blanked 11 times in 81 games, most in the majors.
The Padres’ upstart 27-year-old left-hander started a handful of those games against the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto and Vincent Velasquez.
Of course, shutout losses have been few and far between since the calendar flipped from May to June, the Padres’ offense surging on the back of Myers’ fulfilled potential, a resurgent Upton and a Kemp who’s again putting a dismal second month into his rear-view mirror.
That added up to a 13-13 record in June even as General Manager A.J. Preller essentially slapped a for-sale sign on his clubhouse via the trades that sent James Shields and All-Star shoe-in Fernando Rodney out the door.
The first deal forced the Padres to eat some $33 million of the money owed to Shields in a trade completed just days after the franchise’s richest free agent signee was the focal point of a tirade that saw Executive Chairman Ron Fowler call his team as “miserable failures” on the flagship radio station.
That was June 1. The Padres were 13 games under .500 that morning.
After 80 games — and a few more injuries (Cashner, Jon Jay and now newcomer Erik Johnson) — they were 12 games under entering Saturday’s interleague matchup with the Yankees.
“Our record doesn’t reflect how good of a ballclub we have,” Upton said Saturday afternoon. “We started off on a rough stretch. We didn’t really start off healthy, but we’ve just been playing, man.
“Things haven’t gone the way we want to but we’re not gonna quit. We’re going to keep playing.”