Quantrill's night takes hard turn south

August 28th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- was on the brink.

The Dodgers had two men aboard with one out in the fifth inning on Tuesday night. A right-hander with pronounced splits, Quantrill was staring down three straight left-handed batters in the heart of the L.A. order. He would be facing them for a third time, sitting on 86 pitches.

In another setting, it might have warranted a call to the bullpen. The situation was ripe for trouble. But the Padres have pushed Quantrill’s limits this season, and the rookie has risen to nearly every challenge. So they presented him with yet another.

This time the results weren’t so kind.

Cody Bellinger walked. Corey Seager doubled. Matt Beaty singled. Quantrill’s night was over, and the Dodgers’ three-run lead would grow into an eight-run cushion by the end of the frame. They won the game, 9-0.

“That wasn't me today,” Quantrill said. “I felt like in this past month, I made a lot of strides. Today was a bad step back.”

Quantrill has been the Padres’ most effective pitcher in the second half. He entered play Tuesday with a 1.79 ERA in seven outings since the break. But the Dodgers worked Quantrill into some tricky situations.

On 96 pitches, Quantrill induced just three swings and misses. Joc Pederson took him deep to lead off the third inning, but Quantrill didn’t make many other glaring mistakes. He merely had trouble putting away a resilient L.A. lineup.

“Got to find a way,” Quantrill said. “Good starting pitchers find a way to get through bad days. You're not always going to throw a shutout, but you've got to give your team a chance to win. That was not good enough.”

The Padres have ditched any realistic hopes of playoff contention this season, and they’re planning for a bullpen day on Wednesday. Even if pulling Quantrill sooner was the right move, this clearly wasn’t the place for it.

“We needed some length,” manager Andy Green said. “We have a bullpen day tomorrow. It's a belief in somebody's ability to get through that, because he’s shown time and time again throughout the course of the season, he's been able to make big pitches when he needed to make big pitches.”

In some respects, the Dodgers’ fifth-inning pounding of Quantrill was overkill. A dominant Walker Buehler shut down the San Diego offense with six scoreless frames and 11 strikeouts. The Padres couldn’t touch him.

In four starts against San Diego, Buehler now owns a 0.67 ERA with a strikeout and a half per inning.

“We need an answer for him,” Green said.

They also need a few talented young pitchers of their own, if they want to compete with the Dodgers in the National League West. Quantrill just might be one of them -- even if he didn’t show it Tuesday.

Margot off the deck

In a scary moment in the bottom of the second inning, Buehler plunked Padres center fielder Manuel Margot on the helmet with a 95-mph fastball. Margot went straight to the ground. But after he was evaluated by team trainers for a minute or two, Margot sprung to his feet and walked to first base as Petco Park applauded.

“I knew I was fine from the time it hit me,” Margot said. “I knew it wasn't anything awful. It hit me, and it was loud. That sound was there, and some ringing, and right away there was some pain. But it calmed down pretty quickly.”

As if to quell any lingering fears about his status, the Padres speedster took off for second base on the very next pitch. He slid in safely for his 19th steal in 20 attempts. In fact, Margot admitted he used the situation to his advantage.

“I think sometimes pitchers aren't really thinking along those lines,” Margot said. “I know he didn't want to hit me. I know it wasn't intentional. I figured, this a good opportunity to take advantage of this and get to second.”

Said Buehler: “You never feel good about that. Obviously, there’s no intent to hit a guy in the head, that’s not the way I play. But, it’s hard, you want to make sure the guy’s OK, but at the same time you’ve got a game to pitch. … He stole second base on the next pitch, seemed to be doing fine.”

In the sixth, Margot exacted another small measure of revenge. Bellinger, looking for sole possession of the Major League home run lead, sent a deep drive to the right-center-field wall. Margot ranged to the fence, paused, then leapt and made the catch, robbing Bellinger of his 43rd long ball. It was reminiscent of Margot’s first game in center field at Petco Park -- the 2016 Futures Game, when he robbed a home run in the exact same spot.

“The one in the Futures Game was a bit harder,” Margot said. “I had time to read this one. The other one, I just had to go and jump. ... It's definitely a good memory.”

Pitchers’ duel?

The Padres summoned infielder Ty France to pitch the ninth inning -- the seventh appearance of his professional career and his second in the Majors. France had never allowed a run in any of those outings. But A.J. Pollock led off the ninth with a blast to right field on the second pitch.

The Dodgers countered France with catcher Russell Martin in the bottom of the frame. Martin had never pitched an inning before this season, but he now has four scoreless frames. France roped a double to left to start the inning. But Martin retired the next three Padres in order to end the game.