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Bullpen squanders Lucchesi's sharp start in loss

Rookie allows one hit in four innings in 2nd outing since DL stint
Special to MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- Ideally for the Padres, rookie starter Joey Lucchesi would have thrown a few more pitches Monday night against the Rangers and veteran reliever Craig Stammen would have thrown a bit fewer -- but circumstances didn't cooperate in either case in a 7-4 loss at Globe Life Park.

With his distinctive, herky-jerky delivery, the lefty Lucchesi turned in four smooth, shutout innings in his second start since returning from a hip injury that sidelined him for more than a month. But he was on a strict pitch count, leaving after 70 pitches.

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ARLINGTON -- Ideally for the Padres, rookie starter Joey Lucchesi would have thrown a few more pitches Monday night against the Rangers and veteran reliever Craig Stammen would have thrown a bit fewer -- but circumstances didn't cooperate in either case in a 7-4 loss at Globe Life Park.

With his distinctive, herky-jerky delivery, the lefty Lucchesi turned in four smooth, shutout innings in his second start since returning from a hip injury that sidelined him for more than a month. But he was on a strict pitch count, leaving after 70 pitches.

View Full Game Coverage

However brief, Lucchesi's performance might have been enough to propel the Padres to victory -- until previously dominant reliever Stammen was on the wrong end of a controversial, pivotal umpire's decision two innings later.

With one out in the sixth, Stammen put runners on first and second for Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos, who swung at an apparent third strike in the dirt. Padres catcher Austin Hedges thought he had gloved the ball for the out, while the Rangers disagreed. Home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo initially motioned to call Chirinos out, but chief Bill Welke's crew convened and ruled that the ball hit the dirt before Hedges caught it.

Video: SD@TEX: Margot launches a 3-run homer to left

Chirinos later singled and the Rangers went on to score five runs in that frame, wasting Lucchesi's performance and handing the Padres their third consecutive loss. Padres manager Andy Green acknowledged how much the sequence with Chirinos changed the tenor of the game.

"It's frustrating, they missed it -- I think it's obvious seeing the film that they missed it," Green said. "In that situation it's not reviewable, there's no real recourse. … So it's a frustrating overturn on an obvious call.

Video: SD@TEX: Green on questionable call in loss to Rangers

"We had chances, though. We had some plays we could have made that we didn't make. That's one of those innings that flat out got away from us."

Indeed, the sixth inning devolved further when Padres right fielder Hunter Renfroe made a costly error on a fly ball to the warning track. Stammen left having allowed four runs (three earned) in just two-thirds of an inning after entering the game at 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA.

"He punched the guy out and got a fly ball that should have been caught and then there's no real damage to that inning," Green said.

The Padres built a 3-0 lead on Manuel Margot's three-run homer in the top of the fifth, and led 4-1 entering the bottom of the sixth after Jose Pirela hit a solo shot, chasing Rangers starter Cole Hamels.

Video: SD@TEX: Pirela rips a solo homer to left in the 6th

Lucchesi was more effective Monday after a messy return from the DL against Oakland on June 20, when he allowed four runs in 1 2/3 innings. He struck out four Monday, walked two and allowed one hit, a single. Green said in that situation he was "managing a guy's career as much as [I was] a baseball game," and Lucchesi said he understood the move despite believing he had more left in him.

"I felt really good today," Lucchesi said. "That last inning, I felt stronger than I did in the first few and I felt like I could have went more, but I'm on a pitch limit … I respect that, it's probably for the best."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Renfroe bobbled a deep fly ball that, at least statistically speaking, should've been caught in the sixth, after the Rangers had already scored to pull within 4-2 and put runners on the corners for Ronald Guzman. The rookie first baseman launched one to the track in right-center, and on a windy night even by Globe Life Park standards, the ball seemed to carry slightly. Renfroe got to it at the last instant and the ball glanced off his glove, allowing a run to score on the sacrifice fly and Guzman to reach second base on the error. According to Statcast™, the ball had a 99 percent catch probability. Guzman later scored an unearned run on Shin-Soo Choo's third hit of the game.

Video: SD@TEX: Guzman lifts a deep sac fly, reaches on error

"I know Hunter carries the expectation that he can make that play and we believe that about him," Green said. "He's plenty capable of that play. He can get that done."

SOUND SMART
Monday's loss marked the first time since May 27 that the Padres had allowed more than five runs on the road, breaking a 14-game streak of giving up five or fewer. Despite the stingy pitching, the Padres went 6-8 during that stretch at Miami, St. Louis, Atlanta, San Francisco.

UP NEXT
Padres starter Tyson Ross will make his first appearance in Arlington on Tuesday since his difficult tenure with the Rangers last season, when he posted a 7.71 ERA over 49 innings after a shoulder injury kept him out virtually all of 2016. That setback, as well as his troubled 2017 campaign, appear to be behind him now. He has a 3.34 ERA this year and a vastly improved walk rate (3.2 per nine innings compared with 6.8 last season).

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com based in Texas

San Diego Padres