The San Diego Padres lost two four-run leads before they fell from division to wild-card leader.
The Padres (78-71) seek to reclaim the NL West’s top spot they held for one day when they return home to begin a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks (71-78) on Tuesday.
The wild-card leading Padres trail Los Angeles by a half-game after their stunning 11-10, 10-inning defeat—a loss in which they blew a 9-5 lead in the ninth and 4-0 lead in the first to the Dodgers. San Diego, which in the ninth inning became the first team since 1964 to allow four straight homers before losing on Nomar Garciaparra’s two-run shot in the 10th, has a 1 1/2 -game advantage on Philadelphia for the wild card.
“You wouldn’t expect anything different the way this division has gone the last couple of years,” Padres right fielder Brian Giles said. “There are a lot of ups and downs in this game. This is going to go down to the wire.”
After going 5-5 on a 10-game road trip and splitting the four-game series with Los Angeles, the Padres hope right-hander Clay Hensley (9-11, 3.83 ERA) can push them back atop the West.
Hensley looks to win back-to-back starts for the first time since May 31. He allowed two runs and five hits while striking out a career-high seven in 6 1-3 innings in Thursday’s 4-2 victory at Cincinnati.
“Fortunately, I was here last year when we made it,” said Hensley, who pitched in three playoff games after the Padres won the NL West title. “That’s the best thing that could have happened to me. Anything less than that is a failure in my mind, so we’re making a good push at the right time.”
Hensley will be making his first start against Arizona. He’s 0-0 with a 1.93 ERA in five relief appearances against the Diamondbacks, including a four-inning outing in which he allowed an unearned run and four hits in San Diego’s 2-1, 10-inning win Aug. 20.
The Padres look to overcome their struggles against right-hander Livan Hernandez (12-12, 4.98 ERA), who’s 8-1 with a 3.24 ERA in 15 starts against them. Hernandez is 5-0 with a 3.43 ERA in his last nine starts against San Diego, but the team for which he has pitched against the Padres has lost each of the last three starts.
Hernandez won his second straight start Wednesday, allowing two runs and six hits in eight innings of a 4-2 home victory over Washington. Hernandez retired 21 of 22 batters from the first to the eighth inning before giving up Robert Fick’s pinch-hit, two-run double.
“When I go pitch, I think I’ll throw the whole game. I think that is the point,” said Hernandez, who’s 3-4 with a 3.93 ERA in seven starts for Arizona. “When you’re a starting pitcher, you want to start and you want to finish.”
Padres closer Trevor Hoffman missed a chance to record save No. 476 and move within two of tying Lee Smith for the all-time lead when he allowed the final two homers in the ninth. Hoffman had converted all 12 of his previous chances and did not allow a run in 15 1-3 scoreless innings over 16 appearances since July 29.
Arizona (71-78) had won three straight, but Sunday’s 6-1 home defeat nixed their hopes for a three-game sweep of Colorado.
Arizona has won seven of 12 meetings with San Diego, including four of six at Petco Park, this season. The teams have a four-game set at Chase Field to conclude the regular season.
“You never know what happens in the division,” said Arizona manager Bob Melvin, who added his team is in contention until eliminated despite its seven-game wild-card deficit with 13 games left. “We’re just trying to win everyday and look up here and at the end and see where we’re at.”