Winners of three straight series, while never losing more than two consecutive games, the Padres seek to win back-to-back road series for the first time this season starting Monday in Denver – something the Padrees never did in 2014.
The Padres currently rank tied for third (with the Rockies) in batting average (.271), third in runs scored (59), lead the league in hits (124), second in total bases (192), tied for fifth (with Pittsburgh) in home runs (12), and are third in strikeouts (104) in the National League.
The Friars have shifted their approach at the plate – a stark contrast to last year’s historically abysmal efforts. With general manager A.J. Preller spending the offseason stockpiling talent, hitting coaches Mark Kotsay and Alonzo Powell have these new-look Padres proving they are worth every penny.
But a true postseason contender?
Not so fast.
While the offense has improved, the defense at times has been atrocious. The Padres are tied for third (with Milwaukee) in the NL in errors (12), two back from the Nationals (14). Epitomized by the ineptitude of utility man Yangervis Solarte — dropping routine pop-ups in the series against the Giants and failing to squeeze a throw from shortstop Clint Barmes on Sunday that led to two unearned runs — the Padres need to make the routine plays to be considered postseason worthy.
On paper, nobody expects the Padres to vie for Gold Gloves. But what they have to fix, immediately, is the ability to make the routine plays. Baseball is a tough enough when you have to get 27 outs. By giving your opposition free outs, the game becomes damn near impossible to win — especially at the Major League level.
The saving grace for Solarte has been his ability to atone for his miscues: swinging a hot stick and providing Sunday’s two-run homer that proved to be the winning runs in a Padres victory.
There’s no reason to hit the panic button – yet. Improving defensively by minimizing errors, the Padres can gain ground in the NL West and compete for a division title. But things have to get better, fast. Or else the Padres will consider moving pieces to gain veteran infield presence that can not only help defensively, but contribute from an offensive standpoint.
No doubt it’s an exciting time to be a Padres fan. But to be considered a threat to the first-place Dodgers and world champions Giants alike, it’s time to start flashing some leather before Preller starts shopping for the next piece to contribute for a championship.
+ Written by Mighty1090 intern Dennis Gulyas, under the direction of Jay Paris.