Slumps on top of injuries hurting Padres

Shields deserves better

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

Four key Padres hitters -- Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Melvin Upton Jr. and Derek Norris -- are in varying degrees of hitting slumps and droughts.

After a fast start to the month, Kemp has lapsed into his annual May swoon. His ninth inning homer Tuesday night off Madison Bumgarner is the right fielder's only hit in his last 16 at-bats (six strikeouts). Kemp is hitting .181 in May (13-for-72) with three homers and 10 RBIs with a .187 on-base percentage. His overall .238 batting average is 45 points
lower than his average at the end of April.

Myers has one hit in his last 11 at-bats with four strikeouts and is 8-for-55 (.145) since May 4 with two doubles, two homers, two RBIs and no walks. His batting average has dropped 57 points from .315 to .258.

Upton has two hits and six strikeouts in his last 15 at-bats coming out of a 7-for-12 run with two doubles, two homers and four RBIs.

Norris is 0-for-11 in the latest in a series of dry spells that has the catcher hitting .175 on the season.

Shortstop Alexei Ramirez is also in a 3-for-24 slump.

Finally, however, it appears help might be on the way.

Alexi Amarista Thursday night became the first of the eight Padres on the 15-day disabled list to return to action and had a RBI double in four at-bats. It was the first RBI by a Padres second baseman since April 27. Amarista had been on the disabled list since April 20 with a right hamstring strain.

Third baseman Yangervis Solarte, who has been sidelined since April 10 with a right hamstring strain,   started his rehab assignment with Triple-A El Paso Thursday night and went 2-for-4 with a triple, a walk, two RBIs and a run scored. His second hit was a walk-off single.

And right-hander Andrew Cashner is expected to come off the disabled list (cramps in both hamstrings) on schedule May 24 or 25 and start in San Francisco.

NOTES FROM THE SCOREBOOK:

--James Shields is 2-6 after nine starts despite allowing two runs or less in five of those outings with seven quality starts. The Padres have supported Shields with just 13 runs for a run support average of 1.99, which is the third-lowest mark in the Major Leagues. Shields is 2-4 over his last seven starts despite a 2.56 ERA.

--Center fielder Jon Jay returned to the lineup Thursday night after missing four starts with a sore shoulder suffered while making a diving catch in left center last Friday night in Milwaukee. He was 2-for-4 Thursday with his 11th double. Jay is a .346 (36-for-104) career hitter in 31 games against the Giants.

--The Giants three-game sweep of the Padres was their first sweep of the Padres at Petco Park since 2006.
 
--Left-handed reliever Brad Hand hasn't allowed a run over seven innings in his last four outings. He has given up two hits and four walks with 10 strikeouts during the run, lowering his ERA from 4.73 to
3.10.