SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 23: Adrian Gonzalez #23 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a solo home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on June 23, 2013 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Sunday afternoon in the Padres clubhouse, manager Bud Black and outfielder Carlos Quentin both made their way over the locker of closer Huston Street. They gave him a reassuring slap on the back, offering words of encouragement.
It's a sign meaning, things may be bad right now, but the Friars are not mad at their 9th inning specialist.
Street allowed home runs to Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez on back-to-back pitches in the 9th inning (the first time all season L.A. hitters have hit back-to-back homers), letting the Dodgers take a 3-1 win at Petco Park.
It was especially dismaying because Andrew Cashner made one of the best starts of his career, going eight innings and allowing just one run. Cashner only needed 91 pitches because he struck out just two Dodgers, while recording 19 outs on ground balls.
Quentin provided the only Padres offense with a long solo home run in the 7th inning into the 2nd deck of the Western Metal Supply building. He also had a line drive single, a good sign after missing a week nursing a sore shoulder.
But at the end, Street took his 4th loss of the year. Three of those losses have come in non-save situations, when he came in and the game was tied.
"It's been tough for me in some of those tie games," said Street. "I've been making my pitches in save situations, but tie games I'm expected to make my pitches, too."
The numbers are alarming. Street has converted 15 of his 16 save situations, holding opposing hitters to a .233 average with three home runs. But in non-save situations, Street has allowed seven home runs, and they've come in five fewer innings.
Street doesn't think the problem lies between the ears.
"It's never mental," said Street. "It's a game. Sometimes you get beat, and sometimes it's one of those years. I think the quality of my pitches in those (tied) innings has probably not been as good as the quality of my pitches when I've had save situations."
He and his manager see the issue in another place. Namely, out over the plate.
"I think, with Huston, it's just a matter of location," said Black. "When he hits his spots, he gets his outs. He's a guy who relies on changing speeds, and he's got impeccable control. This year, at times, it's been spotty."
"When you get beat at this level, most of the time, it's lack of execution," said Street. "My four losses this year, lack of execution."
Street was an All-Star last year and has a proven track record as a Major League closer. Black is not entertaining the thought of changing Street's role, so expect to see him in any (and all) situations the manager sees fit.