Taking baton from Snell, Musgrove deals

August 10th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- In a three-week span this past winter, the Padres constructed the front end of a rotation they felt would carry them to the postseason and beyond in 2021. They traded for Blake Snell and Yu Darvish on the same day, leaving certain that there was no room left for him to be dealt to San Diego. Then, a few weeks later, they traded for Musgrove, too.

It had all the makings of an utterly dominant rotation. That hasn’t quite panned out thus far. It’s been solid, sure, and all three have shown flashes of dominance at times. But through the injuries and inconsistency, the front end hasn’t exactly clicked.

But these past three days ... this is how it’s supposed to look.

Musgrove was the latest Padres starter to dominate, tossing six innings of one-run ball in the Padres’ 8-3 victory over Miami on Monday at Petco Park. It came on the heels of brilliant performances over the weekend from Darvish and Snell.

“We’ve got too many good pitchers on staff for us to be performing the way we have,” Musgrove said. “Hopefully, we got all of those out of the way and we can rattle off a good stretch of consistent, deep starts.”

Just like that, the Padres have won three straight and gained a game of separation on the Wild Card-chasing Reds. (They also inched a half-game closer in the NL West standings.)

Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado -- a pair of Miami natives -- provided the thump for San Diego's offense. Hosmer homered in the second and tacked on an RBI double in the eighth, plating the red-hot Machado, who had two hits of his own.

The Marlins climbed within a run in the eighth inning on Lewis Brinson’s two-run homer that stayed just fair off the eastern wall of the Western Metal Supply Co. building. But the Padres responded right away in the bottom of the inning. Machado doubled, Hosmer singled him home and Trent Grisham later plated two with a triple before scoring himself. It was an emphatic response in a game that felt comfortable ... suddenly wasn’t ... and then was again.

“They bounce back with four more runs there,” Musgrove said. “Really good support from the offense.”

Back to the rotation. Now would be as good a time as any for the Padres’ three-headed monster to fully form, because right now, the back end is anybody’s guess. At the Trade Deadline, the Padres passed on adding a starting pitcher. Then, Chris Paddack landed on the injured list with an oblique strain.

Meanwhile, Ryan Weathers is struggling and Dinelson Lamet is headed to the bullpen after a series of IL stints in his attempt to return from an elbow injury. On Tuesday, the Padres will begin an experiment with Craig Stammen being stretched into a de facto starter -- not the way they envisioned their rotation shaping up.

But the concerns at the back will be mitigated in a big way if they're getting the performances they expect from their top three starters. Darvish struck out 12 D-backs and pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on Saturday. Snell one-upped Darvish with seven scoreless and 13 punchouts on Sunday.

“It was really nice watching Darvish and Snell go out there and dominate,” Musgrove said. “As a starter in the rotation, it gives you fuel. It motivates you to go out there and match what they’re doing and keep up with them.”

Musgrove’s line wasn’t quite as gaudy as Snell’s, but he certainly did his part. He struck out eight and his slider was particularly effective and filthier than usual. Of the 21 swings and misses he induced, 14 came on his slider.

“I’ve seen it from both sides -- I’ve caught it, and I’ve hit against it,” said catcher Victor Caratini, who faced Musgrove regularly during their battles in the NL Central. “For me, a lot of it has to do with his delivery. He hides the ball well, and then it’s on you. It’s a quick arm. That, along with the break … makes it a pretty tough pitch to hit.”

Now, the Padres enter a bullpen day on Tuesday, led by Stammen. Their relief corps, which has thrown more innings than any other bullpen group in baseball, has only been asked to cover seven innings in the past three games.

“From Darvish, to Snell, to Musgrove tonight, it’s really lined us up well for tomorrow,” manager Jayce Tingler said.

More of the same from those three, and the Padres could be lined up well for September and October, too.