PHILADELPHIA -- The tarp covered the field at 5:30 p.m. as a torrential rainstorm created a river in right field. Two Padres players -- Everth Cabrera and Yasmani Grandal -- emerged from a flooded dugout at Citizens Bank Park in spandex shorts. They turned the white cover into a giant Slip 'n Slide Tuesday, belly-flopping to cheers from stadium employees.
There was no such joy for San Diego later.
The Phillies, after a day to relax and contemplate the next 101 games, dispatched one of baseball's worst lineups in 2 hours, 40 minutes. The 5-2 victory was a brief respite from the harsh reality of last place in the National League.
There could be a lineup with more failures when 2014 ends; San Diego is a special sort of inept. A.J. Burnett, who pitched to a 7.25 ERA in his previous six starts, breezed through the Padres batting order. San Diego boasted one hitter in the lineup with a batting average higher than .235.
Burnett threw 89 pitches in 71/3 innings before Ryne Sandberg came with an aggressive hook. Jake Diekman finished the eighth inning with two strikeouts on eight pitches. Six of them traveled 97 mph or faster, including one that registered 100 mph.
Jonathan Papelbon converted his first save attempt in 17 days. He tossed a scoreless ninth -- not without putting the tying runs on base -- for his 300th career save, the 26th pitcher in baseball history to reach that plateau.
Marlon Byrd provided the support. He blasted a three-run homer in the fourth and scorched a deep sacrifice fly to center in the sixth. Padres righthander Ian Kennedy retired the first nine batters in order. Chaos followed.
Both Byrd and Burnett could entice a contender come July. Neither is young, and both are owed significant money. Byrd, 36, has 10 homers and a robust .477 slugging percentage. He smashed a 3-2 Kennedy heater to the opposite field. It landed in the first row.
Burnett walked 10 batters in his previous two starts but limited it to two Tuesday. He will need hernia surgery at the end of the season, and signed with the Phillies because they were close to his Maryland home, but he could be a trade commodity. His ERA is 4.24.
The success required a caveat. San Diego has a .217 team batting average. Just two major-league teams -- the 1968 Yankees and the 1972 Rangers -- since 1914 have finished a season with a lower batting average. San Diego's .276 on-base percentage would be the lowest mark for any team since 1914. The 1965 Mets, who went 50-112, finished with a .277 OBP.
The Padres, as a team, have a .622 OPS. They are, essentially, a team of Paul Bakos.
This is the chance Sandberg has long sought. If his team cannot muster a winning streak against San Diego and the Chicago Cubs, the next team at Citizens Bank Park, even the manager may have to admit the obvious.
The opponent, however, has not mattered for these Phillies. They have not secured a winning streak longer than three games since June 2-6, 2013. That was a five-game winning streak -- followed, of course, by a five-game losing streak.
That means the Phillies have played exactly 163 games since their last winning streak of more than three games. It feels longer.
(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services