SAN DIEGO -- For the most part, the Padres' bullpen has been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing start to the 2018 season. Entering play Sunday, San Diego relievers had combined for the Majors' fourth-best ERA with the second-most innings pitched.Something had to give. The Padres couldn't keep asking
SAN DIEGO -- For the most part, the Padres' bullpen has been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing start to the 2018 season. Entering play Sunday, San Diego relievers had combined for the Majors' fourth-best ERA with the second-most innings pitched.
Something had to give. The Padres couldn't keep asking their relief corps to eat four-plus innings per night while expecting the same stellar results.
The dam broke Sunday afternoon.
The Padres hung around for six innings in their 14-2 loss to the Mets, before a familiar face made the bullpen pay. Adrian Gonzalez swatted a three-run opposite-field homer in the top of the seventh, setting New York on course for the first of two straight five-run frames.
Jordan Lyles, whose ERA dipped to 2.00 before the Gonzalez homer, allowed four runs in 1 2/3 innings. Phil Maton surrendered another, before closing out the seventh. Kazuhisa Makita coughed up five in the eighth -- including home runs by Todd Frazier and Jose Reyes.
"Those guys just had rough days today," Padres manager Andy Green said. "... Jordan Lyles has been good for us in that role. He just left a changeup up, and it got hit."
Lyles, sharp in the fifth and sixth, was teetering when Gonzalez took advantage of a high changeup with one out in the seventh. But after another short start from right-hander Bryan Mitchell, Green asked Lyles to save his bullpen a bit.
"When your starter gives you 4 2/3, your long guy has to give you two innings sometimes," Green said. "That would've been a big 2 1/3. If he had gotten us through that inning and given us the opportunity to pinch-hit, I thought we would've been in the position to go out and win that baseball game."
Mitchell is averaging fewer than five innings. On the whole, the Padres' rotation sits at 5.01 frames per start. In Sunday's loss, Mitchell allowed four runs, five hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings.
With a WHIP approaching 2 and a 10-percent strikeout rate, Mitchell simply isn't fooling hitters the way the Padres believed he would when they traded for him in December. They sent Luis Perdomo to the Minors earlier this month for similar struggles. Mitchell is out of options.
"That's not my thinking right now," Mitchell said. "Today's the best I felt this season, and I think I've made improvements. … The numbers may not reflect that, but I can tell the ball's coming out of my hand better and the pitches are better."
If, indeed, Mitchell is making strides, the results need to be tangible soon. Mitchell's struggles -- and the struggles of the entire rotation -- have put a burden on the 'pen all season. On Sunday, the load was too much to bear.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Friar Freddy: San Diego scored its only two runs in the third when Freddy Galvis came to the dish with two outs and two men in scoring position. He struck out in a similar situation in the first with the bases loaded, but chopped a single to center two innings later.
Galvis started the year red-hot before falling into a two-weeks-long rut. He went 5-for-12 against the Mets this weekend, an indication his slump may be coming to an end.
Foul play:Christian Villanueva had his 11-game hitting streak snapped Sunday, but he nearly reached base to lead off the fifth. Villanueva hit a high pop fly about 10 feet up the first-base line. The ball bounced off Tomas Nido's catcher's mitt. Home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger ruled it foul, though it's unclear where the ball would've landed if Nido hadn't touched it. Villanueva, who was on first base, retreated to the batter's box and would later pop to first. The Padres, trailing by two at the time, went down in order.
With his 3-for-5 effort on Sunday afternoon, Hosmer notched his 11th multi-hit game of the season. Only Jed Lowrie and Ozzie Albies have more.
Hosmer recorded seven hits and seven walks in 20 plate appearances this week, despite missing two games while on the family leave list. Sunday marked Hosmer's first three-hit game in a Padres uniform.
HE SAID IT
"It's a performance game. We acquired him because we believed in his potential. We believe in what he can do. It's about that time to stand up and start doing it. I think he knows that and feels that." -- Green, on Mitchell
Padres No. 12 prospectEric Lauer gets a chance to bounce back from his big league debut, which didn't quite go as planned. He allowed seven runs in three innings on a cold and rainy night in Denver. The conditions should be better on Monday in San Francisco, where Jeff Samardzija gets the ball for the Giants. First pitch is slated for 7:15 p.m. PT.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.