Middle innings tough on the Padres

Bullpen ERA 1 1/3 runs per game higher than starters

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

SAN DIEGO -- After 19 games, there is one obvious trend for the Padres. They are getting roughed up at the time of games when middle relievers take over.

Through the first five innings, San Diego is outscoring the opposition, 51-42. And with closer Fernando Rodney taking over in the ninth inning of winnable games, the Padres have outscored the opposition, 11-6, from the ninth on.

But from the sixth through the eighth innings, the Padres have been outscored, 53-10. Here's the inning-by-inning breakdown.

Sixth: 13-6
Seventh: 21-2
Eighth: 19-2

Ouch.

It says two things. The Padres' middle relief is struggling and the offense goes cold.

Clearly, the middle relief is struggling. That was evidenced by what happened against the Cardinals on Saturday and Sunday at Petco Park.

On Saturday, the Padres led, 2-1, going into the top of the seventh and lost, 11-2. On Sunday, they led, 5-3, going into the top of the sixth and lost, 8-5.

In those two games, six relievers combined to allow 15 runs on 18 hits -- including four homers -- and four walks in just eight innings.

"It wasn't our best effort," Padres manager Andy Green said. "But we have plenty of capable pieces."

Several San Diego relievers have had serious issues. Right-hander Kevin Quackenbush, who entered Sunday's game with a two-run lead and gave up back-to-back homers to the first two hitters he faced (former Padres infielder Jedd Gyorko and Aledmys Diaz), has allowed nine runs (eight earned) on eight hits -- including three homers -- and four walks over six innings in his last six appearances. His ERA has skyrocketed from 0.00 to 7.71.

Brandon Maurer allowed three runs in the eighth Sunday and has a 7.00 ERA. Carlos Villanueva gave up four runs in 1 2/3 innings on Saturday and has a 5.91 ERA. Rule 5 Draft pick Luis Perdomo is operating with a 12.86 ERA after seven appearances.

The most capable relievers this far are left-hander Ryan Buchter (0.93 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings in 10 appearances) and Rodney, who has a 0.00 ERA and three saves. But the Padres have had problems getting leads to Buchter and Rodney.

Overall, the bullpen ERA is 5.71 -- the second-worst mark in the National League -- compared to a 4.36 ERA for the starters.

NOTES FROM THE SCOREBOOK:

• First baseman Wil Myers has raised his batting average to .316 during a nine-game hitting streak. Myers was 2-for-3 with two walks Sunday. He is hitting .421 (16-for-38) during the streak with three doubles, two homers and six RBIs with five runs scored. His career-best streak is 12 games with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013. His nine-game streak is the longest by a Padres player this season. And after striking out at least once in each of the season's first 16 games, Myers hasn't struck out in the last three.

• Center fielder Jon Jay had his six-game hitting streak snapped with an 0-for-5 outing Sunday. He had an eight-game streak to open the season.

• Right-handed starter Colin Rea has a 3.18 ERA over his past three starts, allowing eight runs (six earned) on 19 hits and five walks with 14 strikeouts in 17 innings.

• Right fielder Matt Kemp was 4-for-9 with three doubles in the final two games against the Cardinals. The doubles were his first three of the season. He lost an RBI opportunity in each game when two of his base hits hopped the wall for ground-rule doubles that forced the runners to stop at third.