Opener vs. Giants turns sour in 11th inning

July 27th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres opened a five-game homestand Friday night, their final stretch of games before Wednesday's Trade Deadline. They welcomed the Giants, too, a division rival trending toward contention -- and one San Diego has struggled against lately.

In some ways, the homestand marked a final chance for the Padres to make a statement before the front office begins its maneuvering. They’re off to an inauspicious start.

Pablo Sandoval launched a go-ahead solo shot off in the 11th inning, sending the Giants to a 2-1 victory and San Diego to its 10th loss in 13 games since the All-Star break. The Padres fell seven games below .500, their low-water mark for the season. Their hopes for a Wild Card push have all but evaporated.

“Everyone's doing what we can do right now to get out of it, but it's just not happening,” said first baseman Eric Hosmer, who bounced into a game-ending double play in the 11th. “Our group does a good job of focusing. ... We've got to understand we've done it before, continue to be confident in ourselves, continue to believe in this group.”

Left-hander gave the Padres the length they needed, and he did so by working out of jams in the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Lucchesi loaded the bases, but escaped unscathed. In the sixth, he also allowed three baserunners, though one was erased via double play.

Lucchesi mixed in a few slow curveballs to complement his curveball/changeup hybrid, which he calls a “churve.” He struck out eight and walked four over six innings of one-run ball.

In relief, Matt Strahm, Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates and Andres Munoz pitched a scoreless inning apiece. But the Padres couldn’t tack on after ’ solo homer in the fifth. Out of bullpen options, Allen was called upon to pitch on consecutive days for the first time as a professional.

“Just not a good offensive performance for us,” Green said. “A really good job by the pitching staff.”

On July 1, the Padres welcomed San Francisco to town for a three-game series. They were 42-41 at the time, six games better than the Giants and in the thick of the Wild Card race. This month has flipped that National League West dynamic on its head.

Now it’s the Giants who are fighting for their Wild Card lives, 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs and Nationals. The Padres, meanwhile, are seven games back, and they seem destined either to sell at the Deadline or to add pieces for 2020.

Inside the San Diego clubhouse, however, the Padres remain optimistic they’ll pull out of their recent funk.

“We’ll believe in who we've got,” Hosmer said, “and just hope that it turns.”

Reyes “banged up”

Outfielder was unavailable Friday night, Green said, though he offered no further explanation other than to say that Reyes is “a little banged up.” Green added that Reyes would likely be available to pinch-hit on Saturday, and he could start Sunday’s series finale.

Reyes has been one of the Padres’ most fearsome sluggers this season with 26 homers and an .844 OPS. But he’s hitting just .207 with two extra-base hits in his last 10 games.

Reyes’ absence explained why Greg Garcia and Francisco Mejia were summoned instead of him as pinch-hitters. It also might have cost the Padres a chance to double-switch and get another inning out of Strahm.

One inning only

Rookie relievers Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez were starters in the Minor Leagues, and the Padres have decided they won’t use either of them on back-to-back days. With Luis Perdomo unavailable, too, that left Green with only five bullpen pieces Friday night.

Rather than stretch one of those relief options over multiple innings, Green opted to pitch them in one-inning bursts. It left him with the slumping Allen for the 11th.

Stammen, Yates and Munoz all made sense as one-inning weapons, but Strahm has spent the majority of the season as a starter, and he’s very accustomed to multi-inning relief outings.

Green would’ve needed to double-switch for an outfielder to avoid Strahm’s at-bat. But Reyes was unavailable, and Josh Naylor was optioned to the Minors last weekend -- essentially to clear space for Luis Urias. That left the Padres with three second basemen Friday night and no backup outfielder.

Instead, Strahm’s turn came up with two outs and nobody on, and the Padres opted to use Garcia. (It’s worth noting that Garcia played the outfield Thursday for the first time in his life. But the game wasn’t close, and evidently the Padres weren’t prepared to use him there in a high-leverage spot.)

“We could choose to let Strahm hit there,” Green said. “We chose to take a shot. We played aggressively to score a run. We didn't do it. We could play for 20 innings, and if you don't score a run, you don't win. We took every aggressive shot we had to score.”

They didn’t. And as the Giants crept closer to a Wild Card spot, the Padres continued to fade from that picture.