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Bullpen squanders Machado's big night

Padres battle back in lengthy 6th frame, but fall to Dodgers in 9th
@AJCassavell
May 5, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The 2019 Padres bullpen is not the 2018 Padres bullpen, and the Dodgers made that very clear on Saturday night. The 2018 edition was statistically one of the most impactful relief corps of all-time, trailing only the ‘03 Dodgers among National League bullpens in wins above replacement.

SAN DIEGO -- The 2019 Padres bullpen is not the 2018 Padres bullpen, and the Dodgers made that very clear on Saturday night.

The 2018 edition was statistically one of the most impactful relief corps of all-time, trailing only the ‘03 Dodgers among National League bullpens in wins above replacement. A year later -- with Brad Hand and Adam Cimber traded to Cleveland, Matt Strahm in the rotation and Jose Castillo on the injured list -- San Diego is still searching for continuity late in games.

Box score

The Dodgers came from behind for a 7-6 victory Saturday night in the longest nine-inning game at Petco Park. They scored the go-ahead run against Kirby Yates in the ninth for the second straight night, and they rallied from an early deficit against the Padres’ middle-relief for the second straight night, as well.

Machado homers twice against former teammate

“It's frustrating because we're playing a team that's in first place,” Yates said. “We're trying to get into first place. We lost two games because of it. We had a chance to win a ballgame, and we didn't both nights. That's my fault, and I take responsibility for it.”

Yates was sharp early in the frame, striking out Corey Seager and David Freese with one man aboard. But he walked Max Muncy and plunked Russell Martin before Alex Verdugo drew a go-ahead walk.

“Today, I shot myself in the foot,” Yates said. “I lost it there for a minute, and we lost the game because of it. You face good hitters, you've got to throw strikes, and you've got to throw quality strikes. I didn't, and it cost us.”

Yates still hasn’t blown a save this season in his 14 opportunities. But he’s allowed three runs in four innings otherwise. He called those splits “coincidence.”

With 18 appearances this season, Yates is tied for the Major League lead, and it’s also fair to wonder whether he -- and perhaps the rest of the bullpen -- has been affected by the hefty workload. The veteran right-hander dismissed that notion.

“It's a couple off nights,” Yates said. “Probably at the wrong time. We bounce back. Everybody's talented and everybody accepts the workload.”

“Today was just one of those days where he wasn't as crisp as he has been,” said manager Andy Green. “Yes he's had a high workload. Yes, he's been used a lot. I know he wants to be in that situation.”

After two early home runs by Manny Machado, the Padres jumped out to a 3-1 lead entering a wild sixth inning that lasted longer than an hour. Starter Joey Lucchesi opened the frame by misplaying a Seager chopper before he walked Freese. Sitting on 100 pitches, Lucchesi’s night was done.

There’s a case to be made that Lucchesi shouldn’t have come out for the sixth inning at all, with the Dodgers headed through their unrelenting lineup for a third time. That’s where the beleaguered bullpen comes into play. In their temporary six-man rotation, the Padres have three rookies, plus Strahm -- all of whom are having their workloads monitored this season.

“There's a lot of toll on the bullpen, and there's only certain starters who we're asking to go deep right now,” Green said. “The context of that lends itself to needing him to step up in that situation.”

After Lucchesi’s exit, Brad Wieck surrendered a three-run shot to Max Muncy, and the Dodgers tacked on two more in the frame. The Padres stormed back for three runs in the bottom of the sixth after Ty France ignited the inning with an RBI double on the 14th pitch of his at-bat against Joe Kelly.

In total, the sixth inning lasted an hour, three minutes and 22 seconds. It saw 19 batters, eight runs and 91 pitches -- an entire game's worth of drama by itself. Ian Kinsler nearly gave the Padres the lead with a bases-clearing double, only for it to land foul by an inch down the left-field line.

It only set the stage for more late drama. Yates, who hadn’t allowed a run in a month, has now surrendered the go-ahead run in the ninth on consecutive nights. That won’t shake the Padres’ faith in him (though he’ll almost certainly get the day off Sunday). Yates is the reigning National League reliever of the month, and he owns a 1.50 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 18 innings.

“You move on,” Yates said. “You be better tomorrow.”

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.