After four straight extra-innings games the Padres bullpen needed a break on Sunday. One of their starting pitchers gave it to them.
It just wasn't the one that started the game.
Joe Musgrove, who was scheduled to start Monday's game at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, tossed 5.0 innings of no-hit ball (using just 59 pitches) but it came in relief of Blake Snell, who was shaky again. Snell allowed seven runs, three of them on a home run by lefty-hitting Kyle Tucker, in 3.0 innings of a 7-4 loss to the Astros. The Friars still took two out of three in Houston.
Snell struggled to get hitters out, allowing the seven runs on five hits and walking three. He needed 81 pitches to get through the three frames, another example of the lack of efficiency that's plagued many of his starts for San Diego.
Instead of putting more strain on his already taxed bullpen, manager Jayce Tingler went to Musgrove. The move saved a whole bunch of sore arms. The Grossmont High product who made his MLB debut and won Game 5 of the 2017 World Series with the Astros completely locked down his former team.
The Padres called Musgrove late on Saturday night to alert him that he might be used in relief to preserve the bullpen arms. He said he'd do whatever the team needs, earning plenty of praise from his coaches.
"Just that championship mindset and what he was able to do today, it's going to pay dividends down the road. There's no doubt about it," says Tingler. "For him to reset, not just the bullpen but the entire team ... this was a hell of a series. He gave us a fighting chance going into Chicago and a fighting chance to get through this series of 20 games straight."
The Friars are exactly halfway through a stretch of 20 games in 20 days so Musgrove did a solid for the entire team. As for Snell, this is the 6th time in 11 Padres starts that he's failed to get through five innings. The 2018 Cy Young Award winner has not looked like himself this season but his skipper isn't concerned yet.
"We're gonna get it figured out. He's gonna get it figured out," says Tingler. "There's gonna be a point where Blake picks us up. It may be next time, it may be later on in the summer, but it's going to happen because that's the kind of team we have."
"I've got to fight and find a way out of it," says Snell. "It's just a tough stretch. I'm doing a disservice to myself getting behind in the count when there's no reason to. Obviously, this is really annoying for me and I've gotta find my way out of it. I'll be fine and it's gonna make me so much better in the longrun."
Chris Paddack will move up to start in Chicago on Monday with Ryan Weathers and Dinelson Lamet going Tuesday and Wednesday. The timing is actually not bad. San Diego recently tried out a 6-man rotation so everyone will be going on the traditional four days of rest until the next time through the rotation.
The Friars staged thrilling late comebacks in the first two games of the series but this one was too big even for them. Not that they didn't try.
Catcher Webster Rivas, the 30-year-old who spent a decade in the minor leagues before finally making his Major League debut in this series, made his first big league hit a memorable one. Rivas hit a solo home run off 6-time All-Star Zack Greinke, the only run the Astros ace gave up in 8.0 innings of work.
The Padres made it at least interesting in the 9th innings. Wil Myers hit a solo home run and Ha-Seong Kim laced a 2-run shot off the left field foul pole to make it a 7-4 game. Rivas singled and the Friars had a chance to bring the tying run to the plate but Andre Scrubb was able to strike out Jorge Mateo to end it.
San Diego is the last team in baseball to lose 20 games. At 34-20 they're tied with Tampa Bay for the best record in the game.
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