BOSTON -- In the time injured shortstop Everth Cabrera has been on the disabled list, manager Bud Black has referred to him in any number of different ways.
"He was a catalyst," Black said.
"Arguably, he's our MVP," he continued.
When Cabrera returns to the active roster Friday, after missing 17 games with a strained left hamstring, he might have another moniker awaiting him, no matter how unfair it may be -- savior.
The scuffling Padres will surely welcome the return of their shortstop and leadoff hitter, especially after being swept by the Red Sox, the latest setback, an 8-2 loss Thursday afternoon at Fenway Park, serving as another example of how the offense needs some kind of boost or spark.
"But it's not about one guy," cautioned Black.
Still, after sending player after player to the disabled list in the last month, the Padres will finally get one back on Friday. They'll take it, too, especially after they've been outscored 31-7 during this season-high, six-game losing streak.
"We haven't got the big hit when we've gotten some opportunities," Black said.
The Padres (40-46) are 1-6 on a 10-game road trip that began with so much promise; talks of the team adding commodities (pitching, in particular) before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline and, better still, knowing that first place in the National League West was essentially at their doorstep.
Now, the Padres are left to ponder many questions -- some related to the health of several players while other queries surround their moribund offense that has produced seven runs during this vexing skid.
"It's just the timely hitting," said catcher Nick Hundley. "When we were on a roll before, we were getting the big hits, the three-run homers. We've got get back to doing that, getting the two-run doubles and the two-out hits."
Before a sold-out crowd of 37,607, the Padres had seven hits, three from Jesus Guzman, who knocked in one of their two runs with a long single halfway up the Green Monster.
Other than that, there wasn't much in the way of offense to be had facing Red Sox rookie pitcher Allen Webster, who came in with a 9.50 ERA. Webster allowed two runs on five hits over six innings with four walks and four strikeouts.
San Diego pitcher Eric Stults, who was so good during May and early June, allowed two quick runs in the first inning, an ominous sign for a team that, lately at least, hasn't been able to score. Stults (6-7) was dinged for four runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. He has allowed nine runs in his last two starts, spanning eight innings and hasn't won since June 14.
"Early on, in the first inning, I didn't execute some pitches," Stults said. "When you look at them, you think they're a big swing-and-miss team, but they're scrappy. They're scrappy every at-bat. The whole series, they fought every pitcher we had out there."
The Red Sox, who came into the game having scored the most runs in baseball, managed six runs over the first two games of this series. In the series finale, Boston (53-34) broke loose, unleashing 18 hits against a trio of San Diego pitchers: Stults, Tyson Ross and Burch Smith.
"It wasn't unlike the last couple of nights; the Red Sox made him [Stults] work for every out. … They are good two-strike hitters. They're playing with a lot of confidence on the other side," Black said.
Dustin Pedroia had a two-run double in the first inning. Brandon Snyder and Jacoby Ellsbury each drilled home runs and David Ortiz scalded a ball into right field for a two-run single with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. Ortiz later peppered the Green Monster with an opposite-field double.
"Once again, against Stults today, a lot of deep counts, a high pitch count we were able to drive up in the middle innings," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I think the overall approach is still very consistent with us, and that is to grind out at-bats. The fact is, today we were able to bunch 17 or 18 hits together and just [have] a very good offensive approach and a consistent one."
The Padres now head to Washington for the first of three games on Friday. They'll do so stuck in their third long losing streak of the season. Earlier in the year, they had two five-game skids. Each time, they fought out of the hole they'd dug for themselves.
Can they do it again, especially with first baseman Yonder Alonso and second baseman Jedd Gyorko still struck on the disabled list? Getting Cabrera, who was hitting .305 with a .385 on-base percentage and 31 steals, will certainly help.
"They know what's ahead of them, what the challenge is," Black said. "They know what this is all about. This is our lost right now. Our guys know it."