Diamondbacks Can’t Escape Doldrums, Fall to Padres

Tommy Pham getting tagged out in Padres victory over the Diamondbacks
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Padres 10, Diamondbacks 5

PHOENIX, Aug 11 — Despair. Dismay. Defeat. Dejection. All accurately describe the Arizona Diamondbacks in their current funk, one that dates back to July 2. The latest entry in the Diary of the Downtrodden came Friday night as the Diamondbacks fell apart early en route to a crushing 10–5 loss to the San Diego Padres. An early 1–0 lead for the Diamondbacks did not even survive past the second hitter of the next half-inning. And as the Padres continued pounding away at pitch after pitch, starter Ryne Nelson saw his already-high ERA climb as observers saw his shoulders slump.

Postgame, a downcast Nelson was at a loss to fully explain his brief, “frustrating” outing. He had faced the minimum in the first, thanks to a foul popup to the catcher by Ha-Seong Kim and a 3-6-3 double play groundout by Juan Soto that erased a single to center by Fernando Tatis Jr. But the second inning was a different story. Manny Machado led off with a walk and scored on a mammoth (430 feet) home run to left-center by Xander Bogaerts. Jake Cronenworth followed with a 69-mph single to center. But Nelson settled down, retiring Ji Man Choi on an unassisted groundout to first, Gary Sanchez on a punchout, and Trent Grisham on a mile-high popup to the mound.

Padres Pour It On, Put Diamondbacks in Huge Hole

Unfortunately for Nelson, the Padres resumed their abuse in the third. Tatis singled to center with one out and stole second. Soto plated him with a triple to right-center. Machado stroked a single to right, scoring Soto. After a foul popup by Bogaerts, Cronenworth jerked a homer down the right-field line. Choi struck out to retire the side, but that was the end of the day for Nelson.

“It was frustrating for all of us, myself included,” Nelson said after the game. “The game isn’t treating us very well right now. I feel better than I ever have, and it’s just not quite showing up….”

Six of the seven Padre hits off Nelson except the Cronenworth single left the bat at over 100 mph. A few weeks ago, pitching coach Brent Strom said Nelson might have been tipping pitches. Nelson said they talk about it a lot, adding with a hint of a forced grin, “If anybody knows what I’m doing (and) would like to tell me, that’d be nice. But we can’t seem to figure out if that is the case or if it’s not.”

Nelson acknowledged, when asked, that it might explain some things. An example he cited was the Bogaerts home run on an inside fastball. “That was a pitch that he numbers-wise doesn’t hit very well. It could just be luck that he was guessing fastball and got it, maybe. But if I am tipping, I would like to know.”

An Alarming Plunge

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Manager Torey Lovullo felt that Nelson had a good fastball early and “things were in a good spot.” But it went awry when Nelson “started to make some mistakes” with sequencing and left some of those mistakes over the plate. He also suggested that Nelson repeated some pitches that were “an inch or two” from the intended target and “got clipped a couple of times.”

Whatever the reason, the result was the same as most of their games since that July 1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels — a frustrating loss. Sitting at 50–34, 16 games over .500, at the end of play July 1, the Diamondbacks now find themselves at 57–59. They have plummeted from a three-game division lead in the NL West to third place, 12.5 games behind the lead, in 41 days. It came by losing 25 of 32 games. They fell from 16 over .500 to one under in 31 games after Thursday’s loss. No team has taken that short a game span to fall from 16 games over .500 to one under since William McKinley was in the White House (1893 Brooklyn Grooms…thank you Jesse Freidman of PHNX).

A once-promising season has gone from delightful to desperate. While this stretch is not even remotely close to the 50 losses in 58 games experienced two seasons ago, it does carry similarities to the 2018 team. That squad was in first place at the end of play August 31 with a 74–61 record. But a September collapse, one that saw the team lose 11 of 19, dropped them out of playoff contention. They barely finished above .500 at 82–80.

Looking Ahead

Blake Snell (9–8, 2.63 ERA) earned the win while Nelson (6–7, 5.47 ERA) took the loss. The Diamondbacks and Padres (56–60) will play the second game of their three-game series Saturday evening. Veteran lefty Rich Hill (7–11, 5.09 ERA) will take the mound for the Padres against Diamondbacks ace righty Zac Gallen (11–5, 3.37 ERA). First pitch will be at 5:10 pm Arizona Time. It will come after a celebration of the team’s 25th anniversary, one that will include several Diamondbacks legends.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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