Padres end June on a sour note, but hanging in NL Wild Card race

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Three months into the season and the San Diego Padres are still hanging tough in the NL Wild Card chase. For the first time since 2010, the Padres finished the first half with a record above .500 (41-40) and look poised to hang around as the season continues on.

While the month of June was quite the rollercoaster, the Padres finished with a record of 12-14. It’s their second consecutive month finishing with a record below .500, though it’s important to note that the Padres have at least tread water throughout the first half.

They haven’t faded yet as though many suspected they would have, and gave themselves the chance to win a handful of games that slipped through the fingers. With that, here’s a look at how the Padres played individually and as a whole in the month of June.

Manny Machado is getting red hot: After hitting a combined nine home runs and 27 RBI in April and May combined, Machado finally broke out of his shell and eclipsed both of those totals in June, hitting 11 long balls and driving in 29 en route to being placed on MLB’s “Team of the Month” for June.

After pressing for much of the first two months of the season, Machado is really starting to hit his stride for the first time in a Padres uniform. He’s been helping to carry the team with 1.064 June OPS and looks more than poised to continue to shoulder the load for the second half of the season.

Fernando Tatis Jr. has been electric: Another shining bright spot has been the play of Tatis. Every single day, he seems to amaze by pulling off some kind of daring play. In Sunday’s game, he showcased his speed and scored from first base on an Eric Hosmer single. On Saturday, he showcased his power by launching a 440 foot home run to the deepest part of Petco Park.

There’s no limit to the number of superlatives that have been used to describe Tatis, who just this past week joined Nomar Garciaparra as the only rookie shortstop ever to post a season with 10+ home runs and 10+ stolen bases. For what it’s worth, Tatis accomplished the feat in 44 games, as opposed to Garciaparra’s 61.

He’s been the table setter the Padres have so desperately missed when he was gone, hitting .383 since returning and scoring 26 runs in June (a Padres rookie record). Couple that with an undeserving All-Star Game snubbing, and Tatis looks poised to elevate his game to even greater heights.

The outfield has been a mixed bag: Going into the season, the Padres knew they were going to have a surplus of outfielders on a crowded roster. Three months into the season and things are still shaking themselves out. Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe have at times impressed with their combined 48 home runs this season (24 apiece) but have also gone through extended slumps that left the offense floundering. Renfroe’s defense has been a pleasant surprise and as a result, he’s on pace to be a four-win player this year.

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Even with their detriments, both Renfroe and Reyes have locked down the corner outfield spots and look to be staying there for the foreseeable future while Josh Naylor continues to provide a left-handed complement off the bench.

Center field has continued to be a black hole on the offensive side of the ball, with Wil Myers essentially being relegated to a pinch-hitting/late inning replacement role. In a recent article for The Athletic, Dennis Lin wrote about Myers’ sit down with manager Andy Green and the potential remedies for his abysmal production this year.

Manuel Margot’s taken hold of the reins in center and has played fairly productively. While Margot has still yet to find it with the bat, he’s been hitting .267 over the past two weeks and has really cleaned up his once awful base running skills. In ten steal attempts this season, Margot has yet to be caught stealing and has really used his speed as an asset (including a go-ahead push bunt in the 11th inning of last weekend’s game against the Pirates).

He’s also still been Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field and takes a heavy burden off of the defensive tasks for Reyes and Renfroe.

The bullpen has been atrocious: This one’s really no surprise, and probably the most frustrating part about the first half of this season for Padres fans. In what was once a top 10 bullpen in all of baseball last year, Padres relievers have really struggled in June. Since May 25th, the Padres bullpen ranks 3rd worst in all of baseball with a 6.02 ERA.

The losses of Brad Hand, Jose Castillo, Matt Strahm and ineffectiveness of Craig Stammen have really taken their toll on the relief corps. Besides Kirby Yates (and the recent emergence of Luis Perdomo, who posted a 0.47 ERA in June), the Padres bullpen has really struggled.

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On Sunday Brad Wieck served up a go-ahead two-run home run to Matt Wieters, who collected his first hit off of a left-hander all season. Matt Wisler was recently DFA’d to clear space for Robert Stock, who’s had his share of control issues after an impressive rookie season. Phil Maton’s been up and down in Triple-A all season and has been wildly ineffective in 21.1 big league innings.

While Dinelson Lamet’s return will probably signal Strahm’s return to the bullpen, this group will largely be on their own and without reinforcements for the foreseeable future. If the Padres still find themselves in a playoff race in September, they could look to bolster the bullpen through their prospect capital such as Adrian Morejon, Michel Baez, and maybe even Mackenzie Gore.

Until then, though, they’re likely going to have to piece together 3-4 innings every night to try and keep the team afloat as they head into the thick of the second half.

The Padres really have a chance to do something special and bring postseason baseball back to San Diego for the first time since 2006. They have an uphill fight ahead, but they’ve shown they are capable of playing baseball that’s good enough to get them into October for the first time in over a decade.

1 thought on “Padres end June on a sour note, but hanging in NL Wild Card race

  1. Good assessment.
    Probably just need to trade Myers and be done with it. It will not be pretty, but there’s no point to playing him and sitting Renfroe or Reyes.
    Team needs to add a starter in addition to Lamet, and 2 relievers, as they are an overworked and ineffective bunch.

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