These are becoming desperate times for the Chicago Cubs.
A four-pitch, walk-off walk in the bottom of the 10th inning Tuesday night at San Diego handed the Cubs a fourth loss in their last five games and cut into their lead in the race for the National League's second wild card.
Following the 9-8 setback to the Padres, the Cubs (77-67) lead the Milwaukee Brewers by a single game. The Philadelphia Phillies are two games behind Chicago, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are 2 1/2 games back.
The Cubs came into San Diego for a four-game series having lost the last three of a four-game set at Milwaukee. The pursuers are gaining ground, and Chicago isn't getting any help on the injury front.
Closer Craig Kimbrel, who might have come in handy Tuesday, did throw a bullpen session before the game. However, it was decided that he will need at least one more bullpen session Thursday before he can be cleared to return from right elbow inflammation, possibly this weekend.
And speaking of being cleared, shortstop Addison Russell wasn't Tuesday, leaving him under Major League Baseball's concussion protocol after being beaned by Brewers right-hander Adrian Houser on Sunday.
"Every game grows in importance at this time of the season," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who will send left-handed San Diego native Cole Hamels (7-6, 3.95 ERA) to the Petco Park mound Wednesday night in a pairing against Padres rookie right-hander Chris Paddack (8-7, 3.54).
The Padres (67-77) are looking for a strong finish to the season from Paddack, who will be making his first appearance against the Cubs.
"September games against teams in the playoff hunt are a good training ground for a number of our younger players like (Ronald) Bolanos and Paddack," Padres manager Andy Green said. "You need to see how you perform against teams competing for playoff berths."
In his two most recent starts, Paddack -- who has been the subject of "shut-down" rumors since shortly after the All-Star break -- has given up one run on nine hits and two walks with 16 strikeouts over 12 1/3 innings, good for a 0.73 ERA.
Before those two starts, however, Paddack had a four-start run in which he allowed 20 runs (19 earned) on 27 hits and four walks with 22 strikeouts in 17 innings, for a 10.06 ERA that prompted an escalation of the "end is near" theory.
"We check on him after every start," Green said.
Hamels, meanwhile, will be making his 25th start of the season Wednesday. In his latest outing, at Milwaukee on Friday, he gave up five runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings to take the loss. He has struggled of late, amassing an 8.53 ERA over his past six starts after posting a 2.84 ERA in his first 18 starts.
But Hamels has always thrived against his hometown team. He has a 9-2 career record against the Padres with a 2.45 ERA in 18 career starts.
Hamels has faced the Padres only once since the start of the 2016 season, and he will be making his first appearance at Petco Park since 2015. He is 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA in nine career starts in San Diego.
--Field Level Media