On April 17, it looked like the Padres might have a decent year. They probably weren’t going to be a playoff contender, but the team was hovering right around .500 and the team ERA was among the best in the National League. The young pitchers, such as Jake Peavy, Adam Eaton and Brian Lawrence were throwing well.
Then Dodger Brian Jordan slammed into Padres’ catcher Gary Bennett at home plate, spraining his knee.
Over the next month, the Padres probably didn’t even win five games. The team ERA soared and a bullpen that was already suspect wore down, making it pretty much impossible for the Padres to protect a lead. And given the Padres lack of offense, they rarely get leads, and they never build up big leads.
Bennett played his fourth game tonight since returning from the disabled list. In those four games, Padres starters (with the exception of the washed up Charles Nagy) have lasted at least six innings and given up no more than three runs. Brian Lawrence threw a complete game, giving up only one run to the Diamondbacks on Saturday.
Tonight, Peavy had his strongest outing of the season. For 8 1/3 innings, he didn’t give up a run. From the 7th inning on, he struggled. He had a couple of hanging sliders get smashed, but fortunately, they all stayed in the ballpark and were caught. Bennett called a good game, getting Peavy to cut back on his slider when it started to fail him and move the ball in and out well. When he put runners on first and second in the 9th (solid singles), it was the kind of jam that a manager might let him pitch out of it the 7th, but not in the 9th. Bruce Bochy had little choice but to go to the Padres’ pathetic and tired bullpen. The result, a 4-2 loss.
Losing Gary Bennett seems to have totally changed the fortunes of the 2003 Padres. It will be a long time before this sinking ship stops taking on water.