SAN DIEGO — With its idyllic weather, aesthetically pleasing ballpark and tasty fish tacos, San Diego is one of the best stops in baseball.
And the Phillies couldn't wait to get the heck out of town early Wednesday night.
That's how bad their three-day stay was.
Though they are the worst team in the majors, the Phillies hoped for a good showing against a San Diego Padres team that has the worst offense in the majors. All the Phils ended up with was three more losses, capped by a 3-0 shutout Wednesday afternoon in which they made middling Padres lefty Clayton Richard look like Clayton Kershaw (see Instant Replay).
"A very disappointing series here," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We couldn't get the job done.
"We only got three hits today. I'm not happy about the stolen bases. It's embarrassing to me. We didn't execute [defensively] on a double-steal, which we should have. All in all, it was a bad series."
The Phillies were outscored 18-8 in the series. They went 1-5 on the season against the Padres. The Phils are 43-75 on the season and 19-44 on the road. They are on pace for 103 losses. They have not reached triple digits in losses since dropping 107 in 1961.
The silver lining to all this losing could present itself in the form of the top pick in the 2018 draft, a valuable commodity for a rebuilding team.
Pitcher Nick Pivetta has shown himself this season to be a potential building block in the team's starting rotation. On Wednesday, the 24-year-old right-hander provided a look at not only his huge upside, but also the shortcomings that make him a work in progress.
The 6-5 right-hander used a knee-buckling curveball to strike out eight of the first nine batters and a career-high 11 overall, the most by a Phils rookie since Cole Hamels punched out 11 Houston Astros on Sept. 16, 2006.
However, Pivetta walked three, committed a balk and was on the mound for five San Diego stolen bases. Wil Myers singled home the first run of the game with two outs in the fourth then stole second, third and home. Pivetta did a poor job of holding Myers on first and second.
"I wasn't mixing my holds, I guess, enough," Pivetta said. "Something I need to work on. Something I can learn from. For the most part, it was they ran a little bit extra today and that was the difference in the ballgame."
After the game, the Phillies optioned Pivetta to Triple A Lehigh Valley. At first, the move seemed jarring. Upon further review, it appeared to be a paper move (see story). The Phils would like to add a position player as they monitor Odubel Herrera's sore hamstring for a couple of more days. A player like Brock Stassi could come and take Pivetta's roster spot. The Phils can add a 26th man for Tuesday's doubleheader against Miami, and Pivetta could come back and be that man. So it's likely he will not even make a start at Triple A.
"It just kind of works," Mackanin said. "He pitched well today. I like what he did, other than the stolen bases. That's part of the game he needs to work at. Other than that, I thought he was really good."
Catcher Cameron Rupp was impressed.
"He made pitches," Rupp said.
Richard (6-12) entered the game carrying some ugly numbers — a 1.596 WHIP, 188 hits allowed (the most in the majors) and a .323 opponents' batting average (the highest in the majors).
Richard capitalized on a weak Phillies lineup — no Herrera, no Aaron Altherr — and held the Phillies to three hits and a walk in pitching his first shutout in five years.
"We had a bad series swinging the bats as a group," Mackanin said. "But he pitched well today. I give him credit. He mixed it up. He pitched inside, outside. He changed speeds. He did a good job."
Said Rupp: "We hit a lot of balls hard, but right at people. It's a tough part of the game, but you have to deal with it. We didn't get the big hit."