PHILADELPHIA -- Even after dropping his first game of the season Sunday, it's safe to say that 37-year-old Jeff Suppan has essentially been a savior for a starting rotation that already has lost four starters to the 15-day disabled list.
"He's relishing every moment," Padres manager Bud Black said.
The Padres are still looking for that kind of savior to rescue a scuffling offense that hasn't managed more than three runs in the past eight games, including a 3-2 loss to the Phillies before a sold-out crowd of 45,442 at Citizens Bank Park.
"I think we're going to get better," Padres left fielder Jesus Guzman said.
The Padres (12-23) saw their team batting average drop to .221 after collecting seven hits against Cole Hamels and three relievers. In the three games this series, the Padres scored eight runs, two in their lone victory Saturday.
"We didn't generate enough offense," Black said.
It certainly didn't happen Sunday, as San Diego native Hamels (5-1) was able to go seven innings despite some early command issues, allowing one run on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
"He's doing good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "They worked him pretty good, I thought. But he's been really bearing down, making good pitches when he has to and using all his pitches. He's doing a tremendous job for us."
Hamels allowed five baserunners in the first three innings but eventually found a handle on his changeup and cruised from there. The Padres added a run against the bullpen in the eighth inning but could get no closer as Jonathan Papelbon earned his 10th save with a scoreless ninth inning.
"[Hamels] pitched well and he's having a fine year," Black said. "Early in the game, his changeup wasn't where he wanted it. But he eventually found the range on his change."
The guy across the way, Suppan, did his part to keep the Padres close.
Suppan, making his third start since joining the starting rotation -- injuries to pitchers Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland forced the Padres to call for reinforcements early -- allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits with no walks and one strikeout in six innings.
In 16 innings this season, Suppan has a 1.69 ERA. Not bad for a guy who spent all of last season pitching for the Royals' Triple-A team in Omaha and who signed a Minor League contract with the Padres just a week before Spring Training started.
"He hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues since 2010 and he's got a great perspective on what it takes to be a Major League player," Black said. "He's not taking anything for granted. He understands his place."
That place is in the Padres' starting rotation for now and the foreseeable future, even though Stauffer will come off the disabled list on Monday for a start against the Nationals. To make room for him, the team will option left-handed reliever Josh Spence to Triple-A Tucson.
As for Suppan, he swears he's not doing anything different than he has before. He focused on keeping the ball down, changing speeds and peppering the strike zone with strikes. Better still, he said, he's not looking too deep into the reason why he's having this kind of success.
"I don't think about it," Suppan said. "I just prepare for my next start, that's it. I've always had to think short-term and not long-term."
Suppan allowed a leadoff home run to Jimmy Rollins in the first inning and then an unearned run in the second inning. But he righted himself and didn't allow another run until the fifth when he tried to go up and in on Juan Pierre, though the ball caught too much of the plate and it ended up in right field for a run-scoring double.
"I was trying to go a little higher on his hands but he was able to drop the barrel on it," Suppan said. "I just missed a bit."
Not as much as the Padres did offensively, though they ran themselves into a run in the third inning as Chris Denorfia doubled before Yonder Alonso walked. That's when Black called for a double steal with both players advancing. That set up Guzman for a ground-ball out that allowed a run to score.
For a team scuffling offensively, this is how the Padres need to go about producing runs, Black said.
"We've got to push the game," Black said. "We can't lay back. When we have speed on the bases, we have got to push it. When we steal, it gets us closer to home plate."
The Padres added another run in the eighth inning on Nick Hundley's RBI groundout, though that was the extent of their offense.
Cameron Maybin had two hits and stole his 10th base of the season and Orlando Hudson had a pinch single to give the Padres a .358 batting average from pinch-hitters, the best in baseball. But it hasn't been enough to sustain a team that's been snake bit by injuries and hurt by inconsistency.
"It's something we're working on every day to get better at," Guzman said.