Falling further behind Dodgers in NL West exacerbates series loss
By AJ Cassavell
SAN DIEGO -- Given an eternal green light, Justin Upton let loose on a 3-0 fastball in the bottom of the ninth and sent it sailing to straightaway center field. For the briefest of moments, the Padres believed they had just walked off against the first-place Dodgers, putting a nice dent into L.A.'s division lead.
Then, out of practically nowhere, came Joc Pederson. At full sprint, the Dodgers' rookie center fielder made the catch on the warning track and crashed hard into the wall. The force knocked Pederson to the ground, yet somehow it didn't knock the ball out of his glove -- and three innings later, the Dodgers were celebrating a 4-2 victory.
The Padres, meanwhile, were left to rue what could have been, as has become the case far too often this season against Los Angeles.
"We've got to win that game," said Padres starting pitcher James Shields, who tossed seven efficient and effective frames. "The game was ours to lose, and we have to do a better job of bearing down and getting that win right there."
Shields had thrown just 86 pitches when Padres skipper Bud Black opted to pinch-hit with Melvin Upton Jr., despite his club's one-run lead.
Sure enough, the Padres were kept off the board in the seventh, and the Dodgers rallied to tie the game in the eighth on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI double.
"I feel like I can go 160 pitches every time I go out," said a visibly frustrated Shields. "But that's National League baseball right there."
Shields was curt regarding the conversation he had with his skipper between innings, saying only "not much" when asked what was said.
In Black's eyes, Shields -- who had given up a home run in the top of the seventh -- was tiring a bit.
"We talked in the dugout, and we felt it was time for him to come out," Black said. "From my perspective, his secondaries were good, but I thought he was losing a little bit of velocity on his fastball."
The Dodgers have now won all four series against the Padres this season -- including two games this weekend that the Padres led entering the eighth. San Diego's deficit in the NL West sits at six games as a result.
"Obviously, we have a long season to go," Shields said. "Do we want to beat the Dodgers? Of course we do. We're going to take it as another series and move on. But this game, we've got to win."
The Padres entered the weekend on a high, coming off a winning road trip and having won 10 of 16 overall. Perhaps that made it even more painful to lose ground to the Dodgers.
"These games against the Dodgers are being hard fought," Black said. "A hit here or a pitch there, it might swing the other way. ... So is it frustrating to lose a game? Yeah, no doubt. But it's just as frustrating to lose to anybody that we play."
About those NL West implications?
"We want to win them all, no matter who we're playing," Black said. "When you're playing the team ahead of you -- it's just that much better when you're beating them."
The Padres didn't beat the Dodgers on Sunday, and they won't get another chance to do so until the first weekend of September.
AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.