Loss of Maurer, Kelley has crippled Friars' 'pen

Notes on J. Upton, Ross, Spangenberg, Jankowski

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Craig Kimbrel has had one save opportunity in September and five since Aug. 11.

Shawn Kelley has been sidelined while nursing a nerve issue in his right forearm since Sept. 1. And Brandon Maurer went on the disabled list with season-ending shoulder inflammation on Aug. 11.

There is a connection.

Kelley and Maurer were the middle-inning relievers who got leads to setup man Joaquin Benoit and Kimbrel.

And as evidenced Tuesday night in Arizona, that part of the Padres' game has fallen apart.

Interim manager Pat Murphy said as much Tuesday afternoon while talking about the possible return of Kelley next week.

"We've missed him and Maurer," said Murphy. "We lost a ton of games recently in the sixth and seventh innings."

His words proved prophetic hours later as the Padres took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh thanks to the pitching of starter Tyson Ross before bullpen gave up five runs in one inning, resulting in a 6-4 loss.

In 33 games since Aug. 11, the middle relievers have adversely affected the outcomes of 12 games, directly leading to eight losses. The Padres are 14-19 in those 33 games.

Instead of Kelley and Maurer, the bridge between the starters and Benoit and Kimbrel has mainly been Bud Norris, Kevin Quackenbush and Nick Vincent.

Not that it is all their fault. Kimbrel blew one of the four save opportunities he's had since Aug. 17 while allowing four runs in seven appearances. Benoit has allowed three runs in five outings this month with a save, a blown save and a loss. And the starting pitchers haven't gone as deep as expected into games.

The early and middle relievers have been overworked as well as ineffective.

Norris has a 6.92 ERA since joining the Padres on Aug. 10 and has given up five runs on four hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings over his last two appearances. Quackenbush has allowed four runs on two hits and four walks without retiring a hitter in his last two appearances.

Left-hander Marc Rzepczynski has a 7.71 ERA since joining the Padres on Aug. 1 and allowed runs (eight total) in four straight appearances. Left-hander Frank Garces has given up three runs in four appearances since returning Sept. 3. And Odrisamer Despaigne has allowed runs (15 total) in five of his last six relief appearances.

From the scorecard

Justin Upton's 458-homer Tuesday night in Arizona was the longest by a Padres player this season. The homer was Upton's 26th. He also hit his 22nd double in the game as part of a 3-for-4 night, although he struggled with several balls hit to left field. Before his first-inning blast Tuesday, Upton was 1-for-16 with 12 strikeouts against Rockies' right-handed starter Jhoulys Chacin.

• Ross is 5-3 in his last 14 starts, with a 2.73 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings. His ERA on the season is down to 3.18, his lowest mark since his first start of the season.

Travis Jankowski is 4-for-10 with a homer and two RBIs over his last three games.

Cory Spangenberg has hit safely in five of the last six games, going 7-for-21 with two doubles, a steal, three RBIs and four runs.