Musgrove takes first loss as Phils come alive

June 24th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres were asking for an awful lot from Joe Musgrove on Thursday night. To be fair, they’ve asked a lot of Musgrove all season -- and all season the veteran right-hander has delivered.

But when manager Bob Melvin turned to a lineup without its regular 2-3-4 hitters (and still without Fernando Tatis Jr.), the Padres were counting on Musgrove to be sensational again.

Perhaps for the first time all season, he just wasn’t.

Musgrove has been one of the sport’s best pitchers. He allowed six earned runs in all of April, then he allowed six earned runs in all of May. On Thursday night, he allowed six earned runs to the Phillies in a 6-2 Padres loss at Petco Park.

It was the first poor outing all season for Musgrove, who hadn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his 12 starts. He was done in by two costly home runs in the sixth -- a two-run Kyle Schwarber blast and a three-run opposite-field shot from J.T. Realmuto. Musgrove managed to complete six innings, nonetheless, but he recorded only one strikeout and surrendered seven hits.

“Everyone’s going to have their day,” said Musgrove, who entered the night 8-0. “You just take it for what it is. It was one bad inning that got away from me. A couple poor pitches. But other than that, I feel like I was throwing the ball well tonight. Just put this one behind us, start a new streak next time.”

Prior to the game, Musgrove was activated from the COVID-19 injured list. He’d spent four days away from the team after his start in Chicago last week, before rejoining the club on Tuesday.

Musgrove was pitching on an extra day of rest. But he’d also spent a significant chunk of his time between starts in quarantine, throwing off his routine.

“A little fatigue early in the game, more than I’m used to,” Musgrove said. “It felt like my fastball was fading … so we backed away from that a little bit in those situations where we had runners on base.”

In Musgrove’s estimation, he became a bit too reliant on his breaking pitches as a result. For five innings, that plan worked just fine. In the sixth, Schwarber and Realmuto capitalized on a pair of sliders that caught too much plate.

“A couple of breaking balls, that usually he locates a little bit better, to two really good hitters,” Melvin said. “... That’s really probably the only inning this year that you’ve seen those kind of results from the opposing team off Joe.”

Offensively, meanwhile, the Padres did little to support Musgrove. Eric Hosmer had two hits, including a mammoth solo home run in the second inning. (He flashed some leather at first base, too, with a trio of impressive short-hop picks as Musgrove took a no-hitter into the fifth.)

But outside of Hosmer, the Padres didn't do much. Perhaps that was to be expected, considering who was in their starting lineup -- or, more notably, who wasn't.

Jake Cronenworth hadn’t sat since May 19. Against a tough left-hander like Ranger Suárez, the Padres always planned on giving him a night off. It didn't matter that Manny Machado remained sidelined with a left ankle sprain. And it didn't matter that Luke Voit's hamstring was barking.

Melvin was staunch in his dedication to the big picture, and that meant Cronenworth was getting the night off, no matter what. Even on his bobblehead night -- a fact Melvin said he was unaware of when the staff began mapping out rest days.

"I know it's not ideal to have a couple of guys out, but that’s just where we are today," Melvin said prior to the game, before breaking into a grin. "I know it’s a bobblehead day. … My bad."

The Padres don’t expect Voit’s absence to linger. They also got positive news on Machado, who went through a light workout and took swings in the cage. In short, there won’t be too many lineup configurations like this one, in which the Padres were without perhaps their four most potent bats.

But with Musgrove on the mound, they figured they had a shot. With Musgrove on the mound, they always figure they have a shot. On Thursday night, it wasn’t to be.

“Those first four innings looked exactly like what he’s done all year,” Melvin said. “But that’s a pretty good hitting team. Third time around, they got him.”