D-backs drop opener to Padres

D-backs drop opener to Padres

SAN DIEGO -- Micah Owings is frustrated by his performances over the past two months, but the real question is whether they will cost him his spot in the rotation.

Owings' latest struggle came Monday night when he allowed eight runs in just three innings as the D-backs fell, 8-5, to the Padres in front of 29,302 at PETCO Park.

Manager Bob Melvin was in no mood to discuss Owings' status after the game saying, "It's 10 minutes after the game, I'm not ..."

Owings (6-9) had pitched three times out of the bullpen since his last start and there was some debate whether to have Yusmeiro Petit take his place in the rotation given Petit's solid outings both in the bullpen and as a starter.

After the game, Owings sounded like someone who knew it might be Petit who gets the start Saturday against the Dodgers rather than him.

"So we'll see what happens going forward," he said. "But I have to keep my head up and not get too down. My faith is there."

The problem is his command is not.

Pitching coach Bryan Price worked with Owings recently on not flying open with his front shoulder, a habit that causes his elbow to dip and subsequently not allow him to get on top of his pitches.

Early on, it looked like Owings had taken the lesson to heart, as he retired the first five batters of the game. But with two outs in the second he walked Jody Gerut, and Khalil Greene followed with a homer to put the Padres up, 2-0.

"Really just didn't have good command of where he was throwing the ball with any of his pitches it didn't seem like," Melvin said.

Owings still had time to salvage things, though, as the D-backs touched Greg Maddux for three in the top of the third, thanks in part to a two-run homer by Chris Young.

In the third, Owings once again retired the first two batters before issuing a walk to Brian Giles. Then the wheels fell off as he allowed a double, a two-run single, an RBI double, hit a batter and then a three-run homer to Nick Hundley that capped the six-run inning.

"I felt like I was on the right path, just couldn't get consistent with it," Owings said of the mechanical adjustment. "It was there and it wasn't, it was there and it wasn't and I made mistakes and they capitalized on them. Both innings, the second and third I had two outs. It's real frustrating. I'm disappointed that I let the team down. The past few months have been tough just because I haven't put myself or the team in a position to win."

The loss ended the D-backs' three-game winning streak, but didn't hurt them in the standings as they maintained a one-game lead over the Dodgers thanks to their 7-6 loss to the Giants.

There were other bright spots for the D-backs as their offense battled Maddux and the San Diego bullpen right to the end.

"We really had pretty good at-bats all night," Melvin said. "We even hit balls at people with runners on base, but we just gave up too many runs early in the game and all with two out and nobody on."

The D-backs' best chance for a breakthrough came in the eighth when they trailed 8-4 and managed to load the bases with two outs against Heath Bell with Stephen Drew at the plate.

Drew, though, could not come through as he grounded out to first base to end the threat.

Maddux (4-8) picked up the win. The right-hander came into the game riding a 14-start winless streak, but thanks to his offense he was able to overcome his third-inning struggles and pick up career win No. 351.

"Ball starts eight inches off the plate and comes back almost down the middle," left fielder Conor Jackson said of Maddux. "The pitch he threw me 3-2, God I thought it was way out and it came right back down the middle."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.