SD has wasted strong pitching in recent shutouts

Starters have 1.98 ERA in six straight quality starts

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

The Padres were shut out for an eighth time Wednesday afternoon.

Honestly, that's an alarming total. The Padres' eight shutouts is double the amount of any other Major League team. They are on pace to be shut out 46 times this season. But it's the flip side of the shutouts that is most concerning to me.

The Padres' three shutouts in their last eight games came when their pitchers allowed one, one and two runs. In other words, the offense did nothing in very winnable games. In fact, six of the Padres eight shutouts came in games when Padres pitchers allowed three runs or fewer.

Win half of those games, and the Padres are 14-13 rather than 11-17.

Bottom line, even without Tyson Ross, the Padres' pitching has been sharp enough to carry a winning record. It's the offense that has created the slow start.

Cesar Vargas deserved better Wednesday, just like Drew Pomeranz deserved better last Sunday when the Padres lost 1-0 to the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. And James Shields deserved better in the Padres 1-0 loss to the Giants on April 26 in San Francisco.

Even with the two 1-0 losses, the Padres are 4-2 over the last six games -- because of their starting pitchers.

Padres starting pitchers have a 1.98 earned run average over the last six games against the Dodgers and Rockies, allowing eight runs on 29 hits and 15 walks with 28 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings. And over the last 21 games, Padres starters have a 2.80 ERA

And over the past six games, the bullpen has been even better than the starters with a 1.08 ERA --two runs allowed on six hits and six walks with 23 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings.

Notes from the scorebook

Matt Kemp is 10-for-27 in a season-best seven-game hitting streak. He has hit .444 (12-for-27) in six games against the Rockies this season and .315 (180-for-572) with 40 homers in 152 career games against Colorado.

• The top four hitters in the Padres lineup -- Jon Jay, Wil Myers, Kemp and Brett Wallace -- were a combined are 15-for-43 in the three-game series against the Rockies and scored seven of the Padres eight runs with five RBIs. The bottom five hitters were 3-for-47.

• Wallace, who was inserted at third because offense is a priority over defense at the moment, is 3-for-6 with two doubles and a homer in the past two games to raise his batting average from .154 to .219.

• Catcher Derek Norris got Wednesday off after starting nine straight games while battling a prolonged slump. Norris is 3-for-38 since April 20 with 15 strikeouts.

Said manager Andy Green: "Norris will eventually hit his stride. He's in a classic slump. You hit the ball hard for a while and nothing falls in, then you start pressing. It's a classic definition of how a slump starts for anybody. The last couple days, he has not had consistent contact."