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MLB: The San Diego Padres Have Lost Their Firm Grip on the NL West

SAN DIEGO, CA- APRIL 6:  Henry Blanco #28 of the San Diego Padres walks off after striking out against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the Padres 4-1 loss to the Dodgers during their Opening Day game on April 6, 2009 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
Branden YobContributor ISeptember 5, 2010

The Padres have been leading the NL West for virtually the whole season. Recently, a week or so ago they extended their lead to 6.5 games over the Giants. 

At this point, the team showed no signs of slowing down. Their pitching was still magnificent and their hitting was getting it done. 

The Padres also seemed to show no signs of having a major weakness, even though they didn't have a major strong point besides their pitching staff. 

It has surprised me, as a San Francisco Giants fan, that the Padres entire pitching staff has been so successful though. 

Garland? Richard? LeBlanc? Correia? Everyone of these guys has had an average to above average year so far. But how have they continued this success throughout the whole year? Well it may be the teams that they have been playing, and their schedule having a big part of it because they were a last-place team last season.

Their ace, Mat Latos, this season is a rookie. He has been absolutely outstanding the entire season. He has the poise of a veteran out there on the mound, but you have to remember that he is still a rookie. Down the stretch he may falter a bit, but we will have to see.

So what are the reasons for this Padres losing streak? 

Well since the Padres do not have a prolific scoring attack in their arsenal, they rely almost entirely on their pitching. There are exceptions though. Since the Padres have been playing teams with mediocre or worse pitching staffs almost all season, they can still win without a perfect pitching performance.

But now that the Friars schedule has started to get harder, they are faltering a bit. They have been playing small ball all year long, and this has worked when playing weaker teams and by pitching well. How many times have you seen them score on sacrifice flies, RBI groundouts, or heads-up plays? 

Too many to count. That has been a main part of their offense, but things are changing. They can't play small ball if their pitching fails them against the Phillies or Cardinals, and the Padres don't have enough of a scoring threat to overcome large deficits.

Once in a while it may happen, but their home ballpark isn't Coors Field, where all you need is a broom and a whiffle ball to hit one out. They are playing in a pitchers' friendly ballpark where comebacks are scarce.

They can still overcome this losing streak and win the West, but there is a long road ahead of them.

They have to fend off the pesky Colorado Rockies first, who are slowly creeping up in the standings. Then the Giants come in town for a four-game series on Thursday. This will be a huge part of the season for both teams.

The Giants are now only two games back in the division, and are gradually building momentum, while the Padres have hit a brick wall. 

The Padres have to dig deep to stay in first place and reach the postseason, but with their lack of experience how will they do down the stretch? 

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