Padres have no answers

Are the San Diego Padres the team that was torrid over the first two months of the year or the team that has been terrible since?

The question facing the Padres is pretty simple.

Have the wheels fallen off?

The evidence points to yes.

The Padres dropped three straight games to Cincinnati over the weekend to cap two weeks that saw San Diego go from the struggling leaders of the NL West to a dysfunctional family that seemed on the edge of collapse.

Since the first of June, the Padres have the worst record in the major leagues -- 18-35.

Sunday's 7-1 loss to Cincinnati capped a 1-5 homestand. The Padres open a six-game trip to Pittsburgh and Washington on Tuesday having lost 12 of their last 13 games.

What is working for the Padres? Nothing.

"Right now it's like a virus has hit our bats, and now it's hit our pitching staff," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy. "We've got to get this thing cured and quick.

"We know we're awful. We're embarrassed to be honest. We've got to keep coming out here and getting after it. We have no choice. There's no getting around it, we know we're bad.

"We're not pitching or hitting on any cylinders. Every day, we think we're going to come out of it. But it hasn't happened. It's just not happening for us. But I believe it will."

The Reds outscored the Padres 24-5. They out-hit the Padres 33-18. Cincinnati had eight homers in three games to none for the Padres. Over the six-game homestand, the Reds and Cardinals outscored the Padres 40-12. The Padres have not hit a homer in their last eight games. The Cards and Reds had 11 in six.

The Padres' homerless streak took on special meaning Sunday in the 7-1 loss to the Reds. Cincinnati's pitcher was Eric Milton, who had given up a major league-leading 31 homers with a 7.03 ERA before facing the Padres. San Diego did have a pair of doubles among its five hits.

Which begs the question. Since the Padres are in such a prolonged slump, why did they trade their cleanup hitter Phil Nevin for another starting pitcher in Chan Ho Park? Clearly, they wanted to rid themselves of Nevin. But at what price?

Nevin last week used the limited veto power of his contract to block a trade that would have sent him to Baltimore for right-handed pitcher Sidney Ponson. Three springs ago, Nevin used the same veto power to block a trade to Cincinnati for Ken Griffey Jr.

But Nevin had no power to block a trade to Texas -- and Friday the Padres finally unloaded the temperamental, 34-year-old first baseman, who ranks second on the Padres' all-time list of home run leaders (156 to Nate Colbert's 163).

"I hope they don't find anyone else to pick on because I am gone," said Nevin, who was hitting .256 with nine homers and 47 RBIs this season and had lost his starting job at first to the tandem of Xavier Nady and Mark Sweeney.

"I'm excited," continued Nevin. "I honestly am. I'm just excited to get over there."

Nevin had become a lightning rod in San Diego, where his outbursts polarized fans. He was booed after all three of his at-bats Thursday in his final start for the Padres (at catcher). Then he got thrown out in the top of the ninth for arguing a ball call by plate umpire Kevin Kelley.

"There are a lot more fans who like me than don't," said Nevin.

Park was 8-5 with a 5.66 ERA in 20 starts for the Rangers this season. He was scheduled to start Friday night in Toronto, but was scratched just before the trade was announced. Since signing with the Rangers, Park has been on the disabled list five times with back problems.

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