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Are the Padres pitching problems coming to an end?

The good rhythm of August kept the hopes alive

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Before the season, the talk was that the San Diego Padres had the most dominant starting rotation in the league, with Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Dinelson Lamet, Joe Musgrove and Adrián Morejón.

After trading for the bulk of the starting rotation this offseason, the beginning of the season was promising. But down the road, the Padres hit some bumps, and It all turned to be an endless nightmare. Is the wind starting to blow a little bit back for San Diego?

First of all, forget about yesterday’s game, and forget about Darvish for a moment.

In April, starting pitchers had a 2.67 ERA. That was all good, then in May the ERA rose to 3.61. In June the starters had a 4.41 ERA, and after we thought it couldn’t possibly get worse, in July in jumped to 5.97.

Together with this downward trend, the team had several pitchers on the injured list:

  • Mike Clevinger has not pitched this year while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
  • Morejón had his season-ending Tommy John surgery after 4⅔ innings.
  • Lamet, who already had Tommy John surgery in 2018, struggled with a UCL sprain last offseason, and then missed four months this year with right forearm inflammation.
  • Chris Paddack just came back from the second of two IL stints. The first time was due to COVID, and he most recently missed a month with a left oblique strain.
  • Darvish went to IL twice, with lower back tightness and hip inflammation.
  • Ryan Weathers missed time with a right ankle injury, and hasn’t performed well since returning.

Joe ‘No-No’ Musgrove is the only starter not to suffer with injuries, and let’s keep it that way.

Well, August just ended, Padres won just 11 of 26 games, but our pitchers kept the ball rolling for us, while all hitters not named Wil Myers, were on a slump.

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Musgrove has been our true ace this season. He’s had a couple ups and downs, but a lot fewer downs than the others. His had a 2.53 ERA in August with 35 strikeouts in 32 innings, and a WHIP of 1.031. If he keeps it going, the Padres’ wild card hopes will be alive until the end of the season.

Musgrove’s 2.85 ERA on the season is eighth-best in the National League. His 0.991 WHIP is fifth, and his 148⅓ innings are 14th. Musgrove’s 10.25 strikeouts per nine innings are ninth. He is one of four pitchers in the majors with two shutouts, and one of seven with multiple complete games.

Snell, who won the American League Cy Young award in 2018, has a 4.31 ERA this season. In six August starts, he had a 1.72 ERA, 0.845 WHIP, 54 strikeouts and 12 walks. His five starts with 100 or more pitches in August were his most in any month of his career.

Snell’s 122 pitches against the Dodgers last week were the most by a Padres pitcher since Tyson Ross threw 127 on April 20, 2018. Snell threw those pitches in a career-high 7⅔ innings, holding the Dodgers to three hits while striking out 10.

Darvish, who came back from the injured list last week, had a 6.32 ERA in three August starts. His ERA at the end of June was 2.44, but it has since ballooned to 4.05, thanks to 37 earned runs allowed in his last 44 innings.

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Paddack had four good outings out of six starts in July before landing on the IL. He had just one start in August, but in it he lowered his ERA on the season under 5.00 for the first time since June.

Paddack officially has a third pitch now, having thrown his curveball 47 times and his changeup 48 times in his past three starts. In his first 18 games, he threw the curve 161 times and the changeup 400 times.

Weathers was certainly the greatest deception of the season. Weathers, who emerged to try to save the Padres in the postseason last year, became an option for Gore, who lost development time last year with no minor league season. Weathers’ ERA was 2.91 before his injured list stint. Since returning, it’s 13.50 in 20⅔ innings over six games, of which the Padres have lost all six.

Weathers going longer than four innings just once in his last eight outings taxed the bullpen, as did the aforementioned injuries to the starters. The Padres bullpen covered the entirety of six games in August, and in a 14-game span from August 10-25, relievers threw a total of 85 innings.

The bullpen has been used for more innings (566⅔) than any other team’s group of relievers this season and has the third-lowest ERA at 3.22. (Tampa Bay has the best bullpen ERA at 3.11, and has thrown the second-most innings with 566⅓).

Mark Melancon still leads MLB in saves, converting 36 of 41 chances, six saves ahead of the Liam Hendriks and Kenley Jansen in second place.

The Padres bullpen had a 2.94 ERA through the end of July, but in August it was 4.31 with heavy use. The Padres bullpen allowed at least one run in all but one of the past 19 games it has been used.

In the past eight games started by Snell, Darvish, Musgrove and Paddack, the starters have a 2.81 ERA and 0.645 WHIP while striking out 61 in 48 innings, even with Darvish’s bad game on Wednesday in Phoenix.

The Padres still have 28 games remaining in the regular season. Those four starters pitching as often as possible represents the best change of securing that second wild card spot.