The San Diego Padres dropped their sixth straight game last night, losing 7-4 in Arizona, and have been outscored 36-14 during that span, triggering more than a touch of nervousness at Gaslamp Ball. However, the Padres still own a four-game lead in the NL West - with the Phillies currently possessing the best second-place record, that's also the margin they have with regard to playoff baseball.
Coolstandings.com still currently gives them an 87.6% chance of making the post-season, which would seem to make them prohibitive favorites. On the other hand, the 7-1 on odds there, are a lot looser than the 35-1 on (97.2%) near-certainty San Diego were at this point last week. So is there cause for concern, or is this just a glitch on the road to October for the Padres?
The future schedule may present the biggest problem, as San Diego certainly don't have an easy time down the stretch. Once they leave Arizona, they will face sides currently above .500 for 26 of their last 30 games, with almost half against teams with playoff odds better than 25%. Given the Padres are only 35-34 against winning sides, that could be an issue [last season, the three NL division champions average record there was 39-34].
However, looking beyond the past week, the Padres still have a winning record for August - their seventh such full month in a row. If they can make it eight, say going 16-15 in the remaining games, that would give them a final record of 92-70. No major-league team has won 92 and not made the playoffs since the Indians went 93-69 in 2005. So it doesn't seem it would take much more than .500 baseball for San Diego to survive.
If there's an issue on the team, it's probably their starting pitching, whose August ERA is at 4.15. Despite playing in Petco, that's only good enough for 11th in the league, and is more than a run higher than it was in April and May. Wade LeBlanc and Kevin Correia have struggled particularly hard, with a combined ERA for the month, in a dozen starts, of 6.82.
This afternoon in Phoenix, the team will lean on Mat Latos, 13-5 with a 2.29 ERA, to try and stop the losing streak. While no game with more than a month left can be called a "must-win," this one certainly counts as a "really, really, really would like to win" game for Padres' fans. Victory would settle the Southern California nerves, and let the team return to San Diego on a happier note, to prepare for a crucial ten-game home-stand against the rest of the NL West.