Rangers, Padres closing in on 100 losses

Rangers, Padres closing in on 100 losses

SAN DIEGO — Teams looking to avoid 100 losses while dwelling at the bottom of their respective divisions in opposite leagues open a three-game series at Petco Park in San Diego on Friday night.

The Texas Rangers need only one more win to avoid the stigma of triple-digits while the Padres need four wins in their final 15 games to dodge their first 100-loss season since 1993. Losses aside, both the Rangers and the Padres have all but clinched another last-place division finish.

Texas won two of three from San Diego in a three-game series in Arlington, Texas, near the end of June.

The Padres and the Rangers will be starting late-season left-handed additions to their rotations.

Texas’ Yohander Mendez is 1-1 with a 5.27 ERA in four appearances (three starts). He will be facing San Diego for the first time.

The Padres’ Robbie Erlin is 3-6 with a 4.42 ERA. He will be making his 10th start of the season Friday night and his eighth straight start since being moved into the Padres’ six-man rotation on Aug. 2.

Mendez is a 23-year-old Venezuelan who is still ranked the No. 7 prospect in the Rangers’ system by the MLB Pipeline. Although he made his major league debut at the age of 21 in 2016, Mendez didn’t make his first start until this past June as he’s split the season between the Rangers’ farm system and the major leagues.

He was 2-10 in the minor leagues this season with a 4.71 ERA in 122 1/3 innings over 23 starts. The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder was 0-7 with a 5.25 ERA in 12 starts for the Rangers’ Triple-A farm team at Round Rock.

With the Rangers, Mendez has allowed eight runs on 12 hits and six walks with six strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings with a 1.32 WHIP.

The 27-year-old Erlin returned this season as the long man in the Padres bullpen after undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in 2016. He made two spot starts in the first half of the season as the Padres were waiving starter Tyson Ross.

The 2018 season has been something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde season for Erlin.

As a reliever, Erlin made 27 appearances before the start of August. He had a 1-1 record with a 2.05 ERA, allowing 13 runs (12 earned) on 38 hits and four walks against 44 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings. He had a 0.80 WHIP coming out of the bullpen with a .210 opponents’ batting average.

As a starter, Erlin is 2-5 with a 7.45 ERA in nine games. He has given up 37 runs (34 earned) on 59 hits and six walks with 31 strikeouts in 41 innings for a 1.59 WHIP and a .333 opponents’ batting average.

And his results are trending down. Over his last four starts, Erlin is 1-3 with a 9.00 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP. He has allowed 18 runs on 28 hits — including four home runs — and two walks with 16 strikeouts in 18 innings. In his three starts before that, Erlin was 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA — giving up seven runs (five earned) on 17 hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in 16 innings.

Erlin’s only previous outing against the Rangers came earlier this season when he allowed a run on three hits and a walk with three strikeouts in a 2 1/3-inning relief appearance.

Padres' Eric Hosmer trying to lift his game

Padres' Eric Hosmer trying to lift his game

It’s that time of the season.

Not just for Wil Myers learning third base and Trey Wingenter navigating the eighth inning and so many other things a team in transition is trying to accomplish as the season winds down.

It’s that time for the Padres’ marquee player, too.

“You’re still trying to win, still trying to compete,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “But you’re trying to gain ground and identify what went wrong for your year. For me, that’s one thing I told these guys — from this point on I want to try to get the ball in the air and see what happens.”

What has happened is that Hosmer has hit a home run in three straight games for the first time in his career.

In addition to his homers Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he also went two games (Friday and Saturday) without hitting a ground ball. It was just the second time this season he did not hit a ball on the ground in successive games.

Just three of the 15 balls he put in play in four games against the Reds were grounders, well below his major league-leading 61.9 percent ground ball rate entering the series.

All six balls Hosmer put in play over the three-game stretch preceding the series in Cincinnati were grounders. In compiling the highest ground ball rate of any of his eight major league seasons, he has had 36 games this season in which every ball he put in play was on the ground and 11 games in which none of the balls he put in play were on the ground.

Hosmer shrugged.

“I guess that’s what we’ve been searching for all year,” he said. “… It just got to the point where I wanted to focus on the main thing – ‘What is the main thing of getting the ball in the air?’ ”

That’s pretty much precisely what he asked hitting coach Matt Stairs and assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington before the series in Cincinnati.

It’s not that Hosmer hadn’t worked previously on getting the ball in the air. In fact, it had been a focus of his offseason.

But he figured the final month was the time to narrow it down.

Lo and behold, simplifying it to Stairs’ advice to concern himself solely with the back leg — not his elbow or swing, typical instruments for manipulating launch angle — and timing his step more in sync with the pitcher’s delivery.

“I gave him some pointers that helped me,” said Stairs, who had better than a 40 percent fly ball percentage over his final 10 major league seasons, a number that would be among the major league leaders and more than twice as high as Hosmer’s fly ball rate (19.9) entering Tuesday’s game at Safeco Field. “I told him what I went through with my leg and how I developed a better habit of getting the ball in the air on a consistent basis.”

Hosmer describes it as staying back longer and essentially using the ground for power.

“It almost seems like a lot of the good hitters who do a good job of getting the ball in the air hit one-legged,” Hosmer said. “The front leg is just there for the landing. I made it a point to really get into the back side and let everything work off that.”

Hosmer is always better when he stays back. That’s why so much of his power is to the opposite field. It allows him to see the ball longer and have his bat stay longer in the zone.

This year, he too often found himself lunging.

Basically, he was anxious, perhaps even trying too hard.

Others in the organization have postulated Hosmer was at times attempting to carry an offense that was so paltry so much of this season.

Hosmer has several times this season, including Tuesday, refused to bite on that line of questioning.

But he did acknowledge not being himself. A notoriously streaky hitter, Hosmer had some hot stretches this season. Mostly, though, he was battling himself.

“You’re always trying to make stuff happen, especially when you’re going out there and feel like you can’t pull off your ‘A’ swing,” he said. “You go from doing no stride to putting your foot down to doing anything you can to try to get the run in. … It’s come to that a lot his year. It’s kind of understanding what I need to do in a certain at-bat, really just doing whatever I can to try to do that. There were certain times I couldn’t pull my ‘A’ swing off.”

He said he doesn’t know why he’s had his worst statistical season. He won’t attribute it to trying to meet the expectations of being the man on his new team with his new $144-million contract. He won’t attribute it to seeing more consistently high-caliber left-handers in the National League West.

Having hit 25 home runs each of the past two years, he has 16 through the Padres’ 145 games this year. A career .284/342/.439 hitter coming into 2018, he is batting .254/.318/.402 this season.

And his next strikeout will tie his career high of 132 set in 2016.

He is batting .269/.322/.491 over his past 28 games, maybe not enough to justify the $20 million a year the Padres are paying him through 2022 but trending in the right direction.

He has also struck out just twice in 27 plate appearances over the past seven games. His next-best stretch this season was two strikeouts in 25 plate appearances, accomplished just twice.

In the past seven games, Hosmer has chased just 23.2 percent of pitches (16 of 69) outside the strike zone, well below his season average of 33 percent.

“I think a lot of it is us throwing stuff against the wall to get back to having that feeling I can have my ‘A’ swing every time,” he said when asked why his plate discipline has been better. “It’s feeling I’m locked in and not having to battle finding the mechanics before a game and having all that extra work. We’ve gotten back to that feeling of remembering who I am and getting those swings off, and it’s not a constant search coming into the park every day.”

It’s as important to him as any player that September is a success.

“It will almost feel like a jump start going into next year,” Hosmer said. “It was a long year constantly trying to get hot, trying to find myself. At the same time, Stairsy and J-Wash were learning me as a hitter. I think we’ve gained a lot of ground, especially this last month. I think the hard stuff is out of the way. … We know what got us going.”

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Mariners' Gonzales coming off DL to start vs. Padres

Mariners' Gonzales coming off DL to start vs. Padres

For the first half of the season, Marco Gonzales was a pain in the neck for opposing batters.

But recently, it’s a pain in his neck that’s kept Gonzales sidelined.

The left-hander has missed his past two starts but threw a 35-pitch session off the mound last Friday and is expected to come off the disabled list Tuesday to start the series opener against the San Diego Padres at Safeco Field.

“I was dealing with some fatigue, some neck aches, some things I was battling through and trying to push through, hoping it would get better,” Gonzales told MLB.com. “So, putting that aside, I think there’s not going to be anything stopping me from returning to what I was doing before.”

Gonzales was 12-5 with a 3.37 ERA through his first 21 starts this season. But in August he was 0-4 with a 10.35 ERA in four appearances.

“I want to see the same guy we saw in June and July,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He was cruising. He does feel fine physically and is throwing all his pitches in the bullpen. He probably won’t go as long. First time out, you’re probably looking at 75 pitches or something like that. Again, we just want to see him healthy, executing pitches and feeling good about things.”

Gonzales admitted being on the DL for the past 10 days while his teammates have tried to stay in the American League playoff race has been frustrating. The Mariners have dropped 7 1 /2 games behind Oakland in the chase for the league’s second and final wild-card berth.

“Those are obviously very important starts,” he told MLB.com. “The opponents are very important that we’re going to be facing, so I won’t take it lightly. I’ve been anxious and champing at the bit the past couple weeks as I’ve been waiting to get back out there.”

The Padres are scheduled to start right-hander Bryan Mitchell (1-3, 6.58 ERA) in the opener of the two-game series. Mitchell will be making his second start since missing three months with a right elbow impingement. In his first appearance off the DL on Sept. 3, Mitchell allowed one run and two hits in five innings of a 6-2 victory against Arizona.

“I’m just trying to take things one start at a time,” Mitchell told MLB.com. “I know nothing’s guaranteed at this point. But it’s definitely a good stepping stone moving forward. (The Arizona game) felt really good after the way the season’s gone for me. I needed that one.”

With off days and a six-man rotation, Mitchell has had plenty of rest since his last start.

“If they have six or seven days off in between, it’s not going to hurt them at this point in the season,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “I don’t think we have a huge plan to alter this rotation. (Mitchell) did a solid job (against Arizona), and we want him to continue to build off it.”

Neither Mitchell nor Gonzales (12-9, 4.32) has ever faced Tuesday’s opponent before.

The Padres swept a two-game series between the teams in late August in San Diego, winning 2-1 and 8-3.

Votto hits slam, Reds get rain-shortened 7-2 win over Padres

Votto hits slam, Reds get rain-shortened 7-2 win over Padres

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Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto hits a grand slam off San Diego Padres relief pitcher Robbie Erlin in the second inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Joey Votto ended his two-month homer drought with Cincinnati’s 11th grand slam – one shy of the NL record – and the Reds beat the San Diego Padres 7-2 on Saturday in a game called because of rain in the top of the seventh inning.

The game started an hour early because of a foreboding forecast and was played in a steady rain that intensified with one out in the top of the seventh.

Votto connected off Robbie Erlin (3-6) during a seven-run second inning, his first homer since July 9 – the second-longest drought of his career. Votto had gone 36 games without a homer, not counting his long ball in the All-Star Game. He spent time on the disabled list with a sore knee during the span.

It was Votto’s second grand slam this season and the fourth of his career. Scott Schebler‘s slam during a 12-6 win on Friday night set a franchise record of 10 in a season. The NL mark is 12 and the major league record is 14.

Erlin went three innings and gave up eight hits and seven runs, all in the second inning.

Matt Harvey (7-8) allowed Eric Hosmer‘s two-run homer and escaped a bases-loaded threat in the fourth. He fanned 10 in six innings, his highest strikeout total since he fanned 10 at San Diego on May 8, 2016, and his ERA rose to 4.87.

The teams were willing to move up the start time to squeeze in a game with unrelenting rain in the forecast through Sunday. A rainout would force the Padres to fly back from San Francisco on Sept. 27 for a makeup game between last-place teams, and then fly home to finish the season.

Sunday’s game was pushed back three hours to 4:10 p.m., when rain is forecast to ease.

”We would love, love, love to get these games in here the next couple days,” manager Andy Green said. ”I think we’re all in the same boat here. I think everybody was willing to jump to give us that chance.”

The teams were coming off little rest. The Reds’ 12-6 win ended at 12:09 a.m. on Saturday because of a 2-hour, 37-minute rain delay. Green had given his players a later reporting time for Saturday’s game, so the biggest challenge was contacting all the players to get to the ballpark earlier than planned.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Reds: Scooter Gennett was out of the lineup with a sore right thigh. He missed Thursday’s game and went 0 for 5 on Friday.

UP NEXT

Padres: Jacob Nix (2-3) is to make his sixth career start. He gave up five runs – matching his career high – during a 7-3 loss to Colorado last Sunday.

Reds: Tyler Mahle (7-9) is slated for his first start since being called up from Triple-A. Mahle gave up six runs and lasted only 1 2/3 innings of a 10-4 loss to Washington on Aug. 2, prompting the demotion.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/tag/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Padres notes: Green avoids ejection; Ellis' season all but done; Reyes streaks on

Padres notes: Green avoids ejection; Ellis' season all but done; Reyes streaks on

Padres manager Andy Green knew he wasn’t going to win a challenge regarding whether Diamondbacks runner Daniel Descalso had knocked a ball from catcher Austin Hedges’ glove on a scoring play during Tuesday night’s 6-0 loss.

But it being the seventh inning and not wanting to cede another run, Green likely was going to ask for a replay review.

He didn’t get the chance, because he was told his allotted 30 seconds had run out.

Green walked from the visitor’s dugout on the first base line to dispute that notion with crew chief Angel Hernandez, who was working third base. Green said he was not told time was running out, as is customary.

“Angel considered walking to my dugout to be touching third base,” Green said. “I don’t get that, it makes no sense on any level that he’s offering me some sort of opportunity to hear his voice and make a decision when music is being played and he’s yelling at me across the field. It’s not the way it’s supposed to work. I’m just looking for a little professionalism. That to me was not that.”

Hernandez engaged only briefly with Green before returning to his position. It appeared Green had more to say and did make some remarks to home plate umpire Todd Tichenor before walking off the field.

“I’ve already had quite a few ejections, some from (Hernandez),” Green said. “I didn’t feel like pressing that.”

Green has been ejected eight times in his three seasons as manager, including three times this season., tied for fifth most in the majors. Hernandez’s only ejection of Green came on June 29 game against the Pirates.

Ellis island

A.J. Ellis is by some measures having his best season among the 10 he has played in the major leagues.

That season appears all but finished, as the back-up catcher has been relegated to a third fiddle with the promotion of top catching prospect Francisco Mejia.

Green said Mejia and Austin Hedges will split in the season’s final month.

So what happens to Ellis?

“The unfair thing that happens a lot with veteran catchers in September,” Green said.

Ellis, who at 37 is the oldest catcher in the majors, has not only been a sort of coach for Hedges, hitters and pitchers, but he has posted a career-high .291 batting average and a .389 on-base percentage that is second highest in his career and leads the Padres. Ellis has started 42 games, six more than he did in 2017 with the Marlins.

“He’s been very good for us in a lot of capacities,” Green said. “There is just not going to be a lot of opportunity for him to get on the field. Out of respect for him, we’ll try to find ways to get him out there from time to time. It’s very difficult. There’s not a ton left for a third catcher.”

Extra bases

  • With a single in the fifth inning, Franmil Reyes ended Robbie Ray’s no-hit bid and extended his own hitting streak to 10 games. With Hunter Renfroe going 0-for-4 (barely being beat out by a throw from Diamondbacks third baseman Eduardo Escobar in the ninth inning) to have his streak stopped at 11 games, Reyes assumes the longest current hitting streak in the National League.
  • Eric Hosmer went hitless for the third straight game, but he did get his fifth walk in those games. He is 0-for-7 with a .417 on-base percentage in the span.
  • Austin Hedges’ eighth-inning double gave him an extra-base hit in four of his past five games. It also extended his hitting streak to six games.
  • With a single in the sixth inning, Luis Urias has reached base in all but one of his eight career games.
  • Phil Maton did not retire any of the three batters he faced, allowed an inherited runner to score and was charged with an unearned run in the seventh inning. Tuesday was his team-leading 15th appearance in the Padres’ past 30 games. Maton has a 5.17 ERA and 1.66 WHIP and has allowed four of eight inherited runners to score.

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Padres 0, Diamondbacks 6: Mejía called up, Pads get blanked

Padres 0, Diamondbacks 6: Mejía called up, Pads get blanked

The Padres lose today, but Mejía has arrived. He showed up for a quick at bat, striking out, and was among the 13 other Friar strikeouts as Robbie Ray and the Diamondbacks made quick work of the San Diego lineup.

Joey Lucchesi had a fair outing, giving up 2 earned runs in 5 innings while striking out 6. Unfortunately, the following act of Robert Stock and Phil Maton conceded 4 additional runs, putting the D-Backs up 6-0 from the 7th inning on.

Meanwhile, Galvis, Renfroe, and Margot all had multiple strikeout days as the rest of the Pads were stumped by Ray. Franmil Reyes was the first to breakup a no-hitter going into the 5th inning, recording one of the only three hits for the day (Hedges, Urias.)

Fair enough, as the Diamondbacks are now only a game and a half behind the Rockies for the NL West. The Pads will take a quick break tomorrow and hit Cincinnati for a 4-game series against the Reds before 2 games against the Mariners and 2 days off before their second to last homestand of the season.