Padres' defense looks defenseless
San Diego giving Cardinals too many extra chances
ST. LOUIS -- There are reasons the Padres finished the season barely over .500 at 82-80, and those reasons have been repeated in spades this week during the first two games of their National League Division Series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.The Padres have executed little clutch hitting with runners in scoring position, played station-to-station ball on the base paths, hit into seven ground-ball double plays in two games, and exposed a porous defense as the Cardinals have taken a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five game series that could end with a thud on Saturday night with Game 3 at PETCO Park. "Obviously, we can't give the Cardinals extra outs the way we have the last few days in the first two games of this series," said the Padres' Brian Giles, a free agent at the end of the postseason who could be playing his last games in a San Diego uniform. "It's too good of a team to give them four or five outs an inning." The third inning of Thursday's 6-2 loss is a perfect illustration. Shortstop Khalil Greene kicked away a routine double-play grounder. That's two outs. David Eckstein smacked a grounder to first baseman Xavier Nady, but Ramon Hernandez didn't block the plate and Abraham Nunez slid right through the catcher, beating the throw. That's three outs. Pedro Astacio walked in the second run with the bases loaded. So the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead on no hits, an error, a sacrifice bunt, the fielder's choice grounder and three walks. St. Louis actually had six outs in the inning, the three the Padres gave them and the three the Padres recorded. "We just shot ourselves in the foot there," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. They shot themselves in the other foot during the fourth inning. It all started when rookie right fielder Ben Johnson drifted back on a Nunez fly ball that sailed over his glove and bounced on the warning track for a double. That was one out. Yadier Molina smacked another grounder to the drawn-in Nady, who appeared to hesitate for a moment and then threw home. The throw came in chest-high and Hernandez stood there as Mark Grudzielanek came sliding right through him for another run. That was two outs. Eckstein then squeezed home Nunez with a perfect bunt back to the mound. Two runs on two hits and a suicide squeeze made it 4-0, over and out. The Cardinals actually could have had five outs in the inning, the two the Padres gave them and the three that were actually recorded.
"The Cardinals run the bases well," Bochy said. "They execute well. They turned four double plays. They played perfect ball today. And we didn't."Greene said the double-play ball came skipping up off the infield grass. "It was a tough play," he said. "I never got a glove on it. It came up and skipped off the heel." Johnson said the Nunez double was a play he has to make. "I really didn't see it good off the bat," Johnson said. "I lost it and picked it up at the last second. I just misplayed the ball. That's a play I normally make. I believe I should have caught the ball. But I didn't today." About the plays at the plate, Bochy said they were obviously costly. He came out of the dugout to argue the first call, but stayed put on the second. "They were bang-bang plays, it looked like," Bochy said. "You'd like to think we're going to get a guy at home when you're playing the first baseman in. Those two runs were costly, no question about it." All this should come as no surprise. The Padres finished 13th out the 16 NL teams with a .982 fielding percentage and 109 errors. They finished 12th in hitting with a .257 average, last with 130 homers and 13th with 680 runs scored. During the regular season, they grounded into 122 double plays. The Cardinals finished second in hitting, No. 1 in pitching and seventh in overall defense. "That's why they won 100 games," Bochy said. Actually, 102, if you count this week. And that's why the Padres have lost 82 and will be on their way to a sub.-500 season if they play this way again on Saturday.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.