Wolf, Padres stumble vs. D-backs

Wolf, Padres stumble vs. D-backs

SAN DIEGO -- It wasn't so much a curious move when Padres manager Bud Black lifted pitcher Randy Wolf following four innings and 70 pitches on Friday in a relatively close game, as it was a reflection on the current state of the offense.

In the fourth inning of what would become a 5-1 loss to the Diamondbacks, the Padres had a run in and had the bases loaded with two outs in the inning, trailing by four runs. With Wolf's spot due up in the order, Black opted to go to his bench for Tony Clark.

"On that play, with one swing, you can get it to 5-3 with a single. I just thought it was an opportunity to get back in the game," Black said.

Wolf, who to that point had allowed five runs, could have easily gone two more innings. But given the Padres' offensive woes -- they have scored six runs over their last 62 innings at home -- Black went to his bench, looking for that hit to get the Padres back in the game.

It didn't happen, though, as Arizona pitcher Randy Johnson -- who lost to the Padres just five days ago -- struck Clark out, leaving the bases full and San Diego empty-handed for what was another in a series of frustrating games.

"Obviously, I know what Tony can do if you give him a pitch to hit," Johnson said of his former Arizona teammate. "That could have been a big inning, so to just give up the one run and still have a four-run lead was huge."

Wolf, who defeated the D-backs in Phoenix on Sunday, understood the decision and shouldered the blame for putting the Padres (9-15) in such a bind after he allowed five runs in the third inning.

"I'd love to have stayed in there, but I understand the thought process," Wolf said of what was his earliest departure from a start this season. "You try and do anything that you can to get the runs back. I put us in a hole."

Certainly not an insurmountable hole, as the Diamondbacks (17-6) scored five runs in the third inning, three on a home run to center field by third baseman Mark Reynolds. It was, after all, still early enough in the game for the Padres to get back into the game.

But given the way Johnson (1-1) was throwing and the way the Padres have been mostly swinging and missing at the plate, especially in critical situations, the four-run deficit that they faced likely felt more overwhelming that it really was.

Johnson, who allowed three hits over six innings with seven strikeouts, appeared to have better command on his mid-90s fastball as well as more bite on his slider than he did in Phoenix, when he allowed a three-run home run to Justin Huber five days ago.

"He had pretty good stuff tonight," Black said. "We saw some pitches in the mid-90s and he mixed some pitches up tonight. We saw a little better slider command. We couldn't break through."

Not even after Johnson had departed, as the bullpen trio of Doug Slaten, Juan Cruz and Brandon Lyon combined for three scoreless innings. The last hit that San Diego had in the game was its most important one, an RBI single by Callix Crabbe in the fourth inning.

"His slider was better tonight," said Crabbe, who had one of the Padres' three hits for the game. "There were a lot of balls hit hard. We had a good approach at the plate. The hits will start to fall."

All told, Arizona pitchers set down 17 of the final 18 hitters they faced with the lone baserunner being Tadahito Iguchi, who walked in a pinch-hit at-bat the seventh inning.

The Padres did square up a few balls against Johnson, as leadoff hitter Brian Giles lined a two-hopper at second baseman Orlando Hudson to start the game. Khalil Greene flied out to deep left field in the second inning right after Kevin Kouzmanoff's smash was grabbed by Reynolds at third base.

"It looks to me we're swinging the bats better, but no results," Black said.

Wolf, the only Padres starter who has won a game since April 14, retired six of the first seven batters he faced before allowing a single to Miguel Montero to start the third. He later allowed an RBI double to Chris Young and an RBI single to Hudson right before leaving a 2-1 changeup up in the strike zone to Reynolds.

"I definitely was getting behind [in the count], especially in the third inning," Wolf said. "They're a good-hitting team. You've got to stay aggressive, command the strike zone. My curveball was erratic today, and that made it difficult to get ahead of guys."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.