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If Petco Park is going to host any postseason games this season, the Padres need to figure out their starting pitching. File photo
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Sports Talk: Padres’ summer to remember in a slow fade

It’s back-to-school week, with the Padres returning to their familiar ways.

Their season, which started with such promise, has hit a summer wall. Their year that was filled with unbelievable excitement ran smack dab into reality.

The Padres’ dedicated fan base, which deserves to taste the fruits of victory, is instead reaching for Tums.

It’s been a stomach-turning, post-All-Star Game run for the third-place Padres, who need binoculars to see the National League West-leading San Francisco Giants.

The second-place Los Angeles Dodgers? They no longer peek in their rearview mirror with regularity to check on the Padres. That doesn’t mean L.A.’s much-anticipated visit next week won’t feature three games accompanied by a playoff atmosphere.

What’s chilling is it might be as close as the Padres get to the postseason.

Manager Jayce Tingler is stating the right things about playing better ball, minimizing mistakes, yada meet yada.

What’s he’s supposed to say?

If he downed some truth serum, it would go like this: “We have no starting pitching!”

Amen.

Tingler does admit that, and he would be a fool otherwise. What’s saving the Padres’ bacon is their bullpen, which is tops in the majors.

But that workload is taxing, and unlike the taxing that involves Uncle Sam, there’s no extensions. These next six weeks will fall on the relievers’ tired arms that lead the majors in innings pitched.

Yu Darvish has pitched, for the most part, like an ace. Although his fastball arrives in the 90s, too often his back feels like he’s in his 80s.

Blake Snell has been a disaster. We’re not sure if General Manager A.J. Preller got hoodwinked when acquiring him from the Tampa Bay Rays, but he hasn’t been reliable. Period.

Joe Musgrove did the impossible — for the Padres — in throwing the franchise’s first no-hitter. But he’s a .500 pitcher.

Ryan Weathers started well but he’s in a downward spiral. Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lament are hurt.

Paging Poway’s Randy Jones, and we’re not kidding.

Which brings us to veteran Jake Arrieta, who was released by the Cubs. Arrieta was scheduled to start on Wednesday and is seeking a fresh beginning after a 6.88 ERA in 20 starts in Chicago. If he’s the savior, it’ll be the most keen signing Preller ever made.

What Preller, an Encinitas resident, didn’t do was add arms at the trading deadline. Preller counters that the asking price was too high for middling talent, which would have cost him prime prospects. That’s a convenient fallback position, and without knowing the details, Preller could be spot-on.

But it’s curious why he didn’t try another avenue earlier in the season, when it was clear the rotation was heavy at the top and skinny at the bottom.

Another mystery is where is the wealth of talent we’ve heard about in the farm system? We guess it’s there, although prospects are just that, and maybe they’re just not major league ready.

If so, what’s up with player development? Where is the heralded MacKenzie Gore, the organization’s golden left arm? He’s trying to find his command, which tells us that he’s not being coached properly or that he was oversold from the get-go.

The Padres maintain the want-to to make this season special, if they can hold off the Cincinnati Reds for the final NL wild-card spot.

Actually, it’s already one of the most thrilling years in the team’s history, with Fernando Tatis Jr. bringing the wow factor in spades.

But with the cards that the Padres were dealt, and with them not fortifying their pitching staff, their outlook is no longer sunny. A summer to remember has segued into a dramatic fall.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him @jparis_sports.

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