Padres on cusp of elimination after loss to Cubs

SAN DIEGO (AP) – The San Diego Padres held their annual “Shirts Off Their Backs” fundraising raffle Thursday, when fans walked away with players' jerseys after the final regular-season home game.

The Padres might as well have offered the bats out of their hands. When they needed it most, their offense simply wasn't there.

Held to just three singles, the Padres lost 1-0 to the Chicago Cubs and were pushed to the brink of elimination from the playoff race. Brad Snyder, a 28-year-old rookie who was called up from Triple-A less than a month ago, hit an opposite-field RBI single off All-Star closer Heath Bell with one out in the ninth inning.

The loss reduced San Francisco's magic number for clinching the NL West to one and idle Atlanta's magic number for clinching the NL wild card to two.

The Padres trail the Giants by three games going into the final three-game series at San Francisco.

“Man, it just hasn't been very good,” All-Star slugger Adrian Gonzalez said about the offense. “We've got to find a way to be very good for three days. That's all it takes. We struggled to get runners on base, we struggled to bring them across the board. Our pitching's done everything possible to put us in a position where we should be celebrating right now, and we haven't.

“Plain and simple, we've got to hit,” he said. “We've hit balls good. We just haven't found holes.”

San Diego, which started the season with the second-lowest payroll in the majors, led the NL West for much of the summer until staggering down the stretch. The Padres have lost 22 of 34 games since Aug. 25, when they were 76-49 and had a 6½-game lead over the Giants in the NL West.

In their somber clubhouse, the Padres kept saying they can win three straight games. But to simply force a one-game playoff for the division title, they'll have to get past Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez no-hit San Diego in 2009. San Francisco's manager, Bruce Bochy, was forced out as San Diego's skipper after the Padres lost to St. Louis in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.

San Diego has won 10 of 15 games against the Giants this season.

“We're not done,” Ryan Ludwick said. “Everyone in here knows it's not going to be easy, but it's not impossible.

“I think it's disappointing the fact we haven't played our best baseball at times this month,” he said.. “But everyone who goes out there is giving their best effort. It's tough. We all take our job very seriously. We want to win. We want to perform. Unfortunately, as of late, it's been kind of a rough go.”

It's the first time the Padres have trailed by three games since April 17. The Padres are two games behind Atlanta, which closes with a home series against the NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies.

San Diego has averaged only 2.79 runs per game its last 34 games. They've been shut out five times in that span, including two 1-0 losses in this four-game series. They scored just five runs on 17 hits in losing three of four to the Cubs. They had no hits after the second inning Thursday.

“We just can't get anything going as a group,” manager Bud Black said. “And there's really not one guy out there having a great month or a great few weeks. There's no way to explain it. It's sort of a team-wide funk that's sort of been there since late August. We're not swinging it.”

Aramis Ramirez started the Cubs' ninth with a broken-bat single to right-center off Bell (6-1) and was replaced by pinch-runner Darwin Barney. Xavier Nady laid down a sacrifice bunt and Barney scored on Snyder's single to left.

“It's nice to get that hit,” said Snyder, who was playing in his ninth big league game and making his third start, in right field. 'I've been trying to do something, trying to help out somehow, some way. I'm glad I got a big hit in a big situation.

“I'm not going to lie. I've been nervous every time out,” Snyder said. “I'm trying to slow myself down. It's hard sometimes. Surprisingly, I wasn't really thinking about much that last at-bat.”

Cubs interim manager Mike Quade said Nady sacrificed on his own.

“We need to give credit to X right now,” Quade said. “He hasn't had a lot of success against Bell. “It was a team decision for him. Then, on top of that he lays down a perfect bunt. That was the definition of sacrifice.”

Sean Marshall (7-5) got two outs in the eighth for the win. Carlos Marmol pitched a perfect ninth for his 37th save in 42 chances.

San Diego's Jon Garland held Chicago to four hits in 6 1-3 scoreless innings, struck out eight and walked one. Chicago's Tom Gorzelanny allowed three hits in six scoreless innings, walked four and struck out three.

Notes: The game started after a 22-minute rain delay. … The crowd of 28,576 gave the Padres a final home attendance of 2,131,774. … The Cubs have surrendered three or fewer runs in 13 straight road games dating to Sept. 10, the longest streak by the franchise since 1920.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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