Padres needed the break

With the All-Star game concluded, the San Diego Padres will head to Houston – hoping to get healthier and hoping that several streaks end and others continue. The rest was welcome for most of the players as they were able to clear their heads going into the second half of the year.

Trevor Hoffman blew his third save of the season Friday (July 9) and took the loss. Former teammate Mark Sweeney hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer to cap a three-run Colorado ninth against Hoffman. Hoffman had converted eight straight save opportunities before Sweeney's swing and his save percentage is still an excellent 88 percent. But something is not quite as sharp as it was.

Brian Lawrence was visibly miffed when he came out of Saturday's game in the fourth.

Lawrence was subbed for a pinch-hitter while only down 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth. "I'd be upset, too," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy, who admitted taking Lawrence out there "was tough." But the reaction was unusual for Lawrence, who earlier in the week became only the 13th pitcher in Padres history to win 10 games before the All-Star break.

Lawrence became only the 13th pitcher in Padres history to win 10 games before the All-Star break when he held Houston to one run on five hits over eight innings Monday (July 5) to win a duel with Roger Clemens.

Akinori Otsuka has allowed four homers in his 10 games -- four in a span of 8 2/3 innings.

Otsuka didn't allow a homer in his first 32 outings. Over the recent span, Otsuka has given up 14 hits and a total of seven runs. The Padres say his stuff has not changed, but that Otsuka is finally feeling human.

"His confidence has taken a hit," said Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley. "But he'll be okay."

Jay Payton has to hear the footsteps. The Padres are making overtures to Arizona about returning Steve Finley to San Diego. With Brian Giles a fixture in right and more than $13 million wrapped up in struggling Ryan Klesko and Terrence Long, the odd man out if Finley becomes a Padre would apparently be Payton. And, yes, there is another club out there interested in Payton, who has slipped steadily to a .257 at the break -- although he had four RBI in his last seven starts.

Khalil Greene is still a candidate to be the National League Rookie of the Year.

His glove work is reminding some Padres fans of the ghost of Ozzie Smith. But Greene limped into the break, going 5-for-26 in his last eight games with 11 strikeouts. He's also tied for fourth on the Padres in RBI with 30 from the No. 8 slot.

Brian Giles will open the second half of the season riding a 10-game hitting streak. Giles went 12-for-32 (.375) with two homers, two doubles and four RBI. Until 1B Phil Nevin returns, Giles will hit in the No. 4 slot against left-handed pitchers.

Brian Giles finished the first half of the season on a season-best 10-game hitting streak -- 12-for-32 (.375) with two homers, two doubles and four RBI.

Ryan Klesko isn't the only Padres hitter who is struggling. Although he hit a decisive two-run double July 6 against Houston, OF Terrence Long is 4-for-42 this season with runners in scoring position. Before the season, Towers believed the Padres' Nos. 5-6 hitters would combine for 40 to 50 homers and at least 150 RBI this season. At the break, the two spots are on a pace to finish with 13 homers and 130 RBI.

Sean Burroughs was in a major slump as the Padres neared the break. He hit only .176 (9-for-51) in his last 12 starts leading up to the break. Burroughs, who has been playing with back and shoulder problems, hasn't had an extra-base hit since June 19.

Mark Loretta headed to the All-Star Game on a hot note and singled in the game. He has reached base in 34 of his 37 games since June 1. Sunday (July 11) was his 35th multi-hit game. He ranks among the National League leaders in hits (second, 112), multi-hit games (second), doubles (third, 28) and hit .351 during the 10-game homestand (13-for-37). He has eight homers and 36 RBI.

The Padres are 15-0 in games when right-handed relief pitchers Scott Linebrink, Akinori Otsuka and Trevor Hoffman work back-to-back-to-back. Over those 15 games, the trio has a 0.92 earned run average while allowing 27 hits in 48 2/3 innings against 49 strikeouts.

Look for the Padres to get healthier just after the break. Not only does 1B Phil Nevin expect to return to the cleanup spot exactly 15 days after undergoing July 5 surgery to remove cartilage from his right knee, C Ramon Hernandez hopes to be back in the lineup July 26 when the Padres open a season-long 13-game homestand. Hernandez, who strained his left knee June 21, has been squatting and catching on the side and running the bases. He will start a rehab assignment later this week.

Xavier Nady went 5-for-12 with two doubles, a homer and three RBI in the No. 6 slot after being inserted into the lineup for the last three games before the break.

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