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MLB: Nationals, Padres both seek return to winning ways

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The San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals went into the final week of the first half playing each other on the West Coast, hoping that a good series would allow them to enter the All-Star break riding a high.

Well, the two playoff hopefuls split a four-game series.

Then things fell apart — leaving both teams starting the second half desperately needing to make up lost ground.

The Nationals, who host the Padres in a three-game series starting Friday to open the second half, lost four straight games to end the first half and went 2-9 over the past 11 games. The only two wins came against the Padres. The slump has pushed the Nationals five games below .500 and six games off the pace in the National League East.

“We have to start winning,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. “We’ve done it before. But this is the time to get it going.”

Meanwhile, the Padres finished the first half by losing two of three to the Rockies in San Diego — becoming the first team to lose a series at home to Colorado (9-34 on the road) this season. The Padres went 3-4 at home in the week leading up to the break.

That is the key number for the Padres, who at 53-40 still have a good hold on the National League’s second wild card berth. But only 29 of the Padres final 69 games are at home. They are 20-21 on the road this season going into a 10-game road trip to open the second half.

While the Padres aren’t in panic mode, manager Jayce Tingler did strike a note of concern after the last game of the first half.

“It’s disappointing, frustrating the way we ended up, just in all areas,” Tingler said. “Obviously, struggled to score runs. When you do that, you’ve got to play just airtight defense. We didn’t do that. We pitched well enough to win. But overall, not the way we wanted to finish up.

“We’re not having enough quality at-bats. Everything gets exposed when you’re not doing that. We need to heat up as a group. We’ve done it before. We’ve got to do that this next stretch of the season. We’re going to have to sprint to the finish line.”

Not only were the Padres not hitting and playing “sloppy” defense to end the first half, the dam that had been the pitching staff developed some major leaks.

Ace Yu Darvish opens the second half on the injured list with a sore back and hip. Dinelson Lamet is still on the disabled list for the third time this season with a tender elbow. And left-hander Ryan Weathers departed the final game of the first half with an ankle injury that required him to be helped from the field.

Which is why hot-and-cold right-hander Chris Paddack (4-6, 5.38 ERA) — the Padres’ No. 4 starter — will start the second half against Nationals right-hander Erick Fedde (4-6, 4.59 ERA).

Both of Friday night’s starters struggled against the other team last week. Paddack gave up nine runs (eight earned) on nine hits and a walk in just two innings to the Nationals on July 7. A day earlier, Fedde gave up six runs on eight hits and a walk in 4 1/3 innings to the Padres.

–Field Level Media

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