Kennedy flirts with no-no, but Rox come alive late
Righty takes no-hitter into sixth before allowing three runs in seventh
SAN DIEGO -- Ian Kennedy does not mess around. Never has. He gets the ball, he throws the ball. He pumps strikes. He works quickly and with a purpose.
One problem: Sometimes, he gets the Padres' hitters into the box a little too quickly. Such was the case on Thursday in a quiet 3-1 loss to the Rockies at Petco Park.
"We let one slip through our fingers today," outfielder Chris Denorfia said.
"Ian did a great job," outfielder Will Venable added.
For six innings, Kennedy was sensational. He set down the first 12 Rockies in order. He lost a perfect game with a leadoff walk to Troy Tulowitzki in the fifth, but then got a quick lineout and 5-4-3 double play.
"We're just not hitting at the rate we need to hit," manager Bud Black said. "Right now, it's just tough sledding offensively.
"Ian pitched a [heck] of a game. He really did. He deserved a better fate. He threw the ball great."
The frustration was visible after this one. Palpable. The no-hitter disappeared when Nolan Arenado pulled a changeup over the third-base bag for a double to lead off the sixth.
Then the game disappeared in the next inning because the Padres had given Kennedy the slimmest margin for error. So when the Rockies landed a couple of paper cuts in the form of two doubles, a walk, a ground ball and a single, the resulting three runs would prove too much to overcome.
To that point, San Diego was clinging to a precarious 1-0 lead delivered when Xavier Nady, continuing to show he's still got bat speed at 35, belted his third homer of the season. It was a solo shot against Colorado starter Franklin Morales to start the fourth.
"Just trying to have good at-bats, you know?" Nady said. "The guy did a good job today."
The way Kennedy was going, Nady's latest delivery looked as if it would hold up. Kennedy went a season-high seven innings and said he easily had the best stuff he's had this season. His fastball was crisp, his curve was hooking and his changeup was well calibrated.
"He didn't miss a spot, didn't miss anything, for the first five innings," Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "For us to keep scratching and clawing and to take advantage of the very few mistakes he made was nice."
Then came the seventh. Corey Dickerson flared what looked like an innocent one-out double down the left-field line. Then Tulowitzki drew a five-pitch walk.
"Tulo is the best hitter in that lineup," Kennedy said. "With Carlos Gonzalez getting the day off, in that situation you've got to be smart. I'm trying to throw him my best fastballs.
"He's proven he's one of the best hitters in the National League. I respect that."
Up next, Justin Morneau yanked a double just over Denorfia's head in right field to drive home Dickerson and knot the game at 1. It was the only real hard-hit ball against Kennedy all afternoon. And it looked as if Denorfia could have snagged it.
"It had a funky, knuckleball spin, and I got a bad first step," Denorfia said. "That's usually all it takes."
With runners on second and third, the Padres elected not to bring their infield in. And they immediately paid for it when catcher Wilin Rosario sent a bouncer to shortstop slow enough that it allowed Tulowitzki to race home with the go-ahead run.
As to why he didn't bring the infield in, Black acknowledged that it was a good question and there were a couple of ways to play it there. But ultimately, the Padres' offensive funk played into the decision.
"That's a tough call," Black said. "In hindsight, we probably should have brought them in."
But in a tie game with runners at second and third, Black was worried that if he brought the infield in and Rosario slipped a hit past the infield, two runs would score.
While San Diego pitching has posted a 2.89 ERA to rank fifth in the Majors and third in the National League, the pitchers are receiving the least run support in the NL, and second worst in the Majors, an average of 3.02 runs per game. Only the Astros (2.88) have gotten less.
"We've got to get back to playing a total game, where we're pitching and hitting collectively," Black said. "Our averages have to come up. You look at our averages as a group, they're well below guys' career averages.
"We're talking less than 60 at-bats. But we need to elevate those averages."
Especially with the Padres pitching so well as a team. Each day that a page falls from the schedule with an "L" attached to it when a starter throws as well as Kennedy is especially tough to take.
"Obviously, everyone wants to get on top early, get that big hit, let the starter settle in," Nady said. "I think everyone believes in everyone else in here.
"It's just a matter of time until we have that big night, that big day. And feed off of that."