The San Diego offense expected to struggle without injured star Fernando Tatis Jr. Padres manager Bob Melvin has said as much.

“Right now, we’re going to have to work hard to create runs,” Melvin said recently. “We’re missing a big bat. I expect we’re going to be in a lot of close, low-scoring games to start the season.”

That certainly has been the case over the past two days against the Atlanta Braves. After scoring 12 runs in the home opener Thursday against the Braves, the Padres have scored four runs on 10 hits in two straight losses. Over their past five games, the Padres have scored more than two runs only once.

The Padres hope to snap out of the doldrums Sunday while seeking a split of the four-game series.

“I think we’re trying to do too much early in the count, get it all back at once,” Melvin said Saturday after his team was dominated by Atlanta starter Ian Anderson. “We’re swinging at some balls … helping the pitcher.”

San Diego right-hander Yu Darvish (0-1, 10.57 ERA) makes his third start of the season against Atlanta right-hander Bryce Elder (1-0, 4.76), who allowed three runs on six hits with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings Tuesday in his MLB debut against the Washington Nationals.

Elder, 22, the Braves’ fifth-round pick in the 2020, is officially the last man in the six-man rotation that Atlanta is using for the first month of the season. But his efforts against the Nationals, combined with the struggles of Huascar Ynoa (five runs allowed on seven hits and two walks in three innings), led Braves manager Brian Snitker to make an early rotation shuffle.

“Elder starting Sunday will allow Ynoa to have an extra day of rest,” Snitker said. “Elder will be on regular rest after his outstanding performance Tuesday. We’re excited to see him back out there.”

A Darvish-Elder matchup at Petco Park would seem to favor the Padre, who pitched six innings of hitless ball in the season opener. But Darvish followed that effort with one of the worst outings of his career last Tuesday in San Francisco. He gave up nine runs on eight hits in just 1 2/3 innings of a 13-2 loss.

But the track record points toward Darvish returning to form. The bigger question is the Padres offense.

Corner infielders Eric Hosmer (.394) and Manny Machado (.350) are off to fast starts and left fielder Jurickson Profar has three homers and nine RBIs in the season’s first 10 games. And catcher Austin Nola drove in a run in each of his first six games.

Beyond that, zilch. Former Yankee Luke Voit is hitting .176 as the Padres’ designated hitter with 12 strikeouts in his past six games. Lead-off hitter Trent Grisham needed a home run in the eighth Saturday to get to .150, although he did draw the Padres’ lone walk in two games (against 27 strikeouts).

And rookie C.J. Abrams, who is platooning at short in Tatis’ absence, is hitting .083.

–Field Level Media