Padres prove to be a tough out for Brewers
Lucchesi the latest SD starter to showcase electric stuff in series
MILWAUKEE -- With a week and a half to go in the regular season, the Brewers are keeping a watchful eye on the Nationals and the Cubs as they jockey for a National League Wild Card berth.
A year from now, though, Brewers manager Craig Counsell and his players might want to keep their eye on the Padres, too.
Milwaukee's 5-1 victory Thursday afternoon was its third of the four-game series, but while the Padres, 29 games out of first in the NL West, own the NL's fourth-worst record, they made the surging Brewers work for each and every one of those victories, leaving Counsell impressed.
"This is a team with a lot of good pieces," Counsell said. “It's been tough for us to score this series. They've got pitching pieces for sure. There's no question about it. I think they're in a good spot with those guys."
San Diego's starting rotation was electric during the series. Garrett Richards got it started by striking out five over 3 2/3 innings in the opener -- his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery last July -- and Chris Paddack followed that by striking out nine in what turned out to be his final start of the season. Dinelson Lamet struck out a career-high 14 while allowing just a run in the Padres' only victory of the series, and even though Joey Lucchesi allowed three runs over four innings Thursday, he still managed to record seven more strikeouts.
"It wasn't one of those days when he was on top of his game," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He was fighting hard from the get-go, throwing about 20 pitches per inning, but he managed to keep us in the game. It wasn't all bad from him, it just wasn't his sharpest outing of the year."
Even with Lucchesi's outing, San Diego starters combined to hold Milwaukee to eight runs with 35 strikeouts over 18 2/3 innings, while the bullpen allowed only six runs while striking out 17 over 14 1/3 innings during the four-game series.
"Our starting pitchers were really, really good," Green said. "We're encouraged by that, but we have to get the offense cranking to compete with some of the better teams in the league."
That was the case again Thursday as the Padres managed just one run against the Brewers, giving them a total of five for the series.
Former Padres pitcher Jordan Lyles struck out nine and held San Diego to three hits in his 4 2/3 innings, the only blemish coming on Eric Hosmer's home run to lead off the fourth inning.
Hosmer had just three hits in the series while striking out eight times -- including three of the Padres' 16 strikeouts Thursday.
"We swung through some heaters," Green said. "We created some opportunities against [Lyles], but that's too many punchouts to win a baseball game."
San Diego did manage to threaten late, putting two on with nobody out in the ninth inning against Ray Black, forcing Counsell to call on left-handed closer Josh Hader to shut the door. Hader struck out Manuel Margot before throwing a 94.6 mph first-pitch fastball to Luis Torrens, who ripped it right at third baseman Mike Moustakas for an inning-ending double play.
Torrens, a Rule 5 Draft pick three years ago who returned to the Padres earlier this week, impressed Green with his approach against Hader.
“He put a really nice swing on one of the best relievers in baseball,” Green said.
With the Brewers out of the way, the Padres face another difficult test this weekend against the D-backs, who are still clinging to their own faint postseason hopes.
It will be another chance for Green's young players to get a taste of the intensity of September baseball, an experience that will hopefully pay off if all goes according to plan and San Diego finds itself in the hunt next season.
"Across the board, you're only really happy if you win the series," Green said. "But for our young guys, there were some positive things."