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Richard struggles early in loss to Rockies

April 4, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- It's hard to win baseball games if you're playing catch-up, and the Padres have spent most of the past week doing exactly that. San Diego has played six games this season and has fallen behind at some point during the first three innings in all six of

SAN DIEGO -- It's hard to win baseball games if you're playing catch-up, and the Padres have spent most of the past week doing exactly that. San Diego has played six games this season and has fallen behind at some point during the first three innings in all six of them.
On Wednesday against the Rockies, left-hander Clayton Richard allowed five runs in the opening two frames of the Padres' 5-2 loss, their fifth in six games. Richard settled down nicely from there, and the San Diego bullpen was sharp. But the Padres couldn't touch Rockies ace Jon Gray, who allowed four hits over seven scoreless innings.
"He has a really good fastball and a good slider that looks like his fastball, comes out of the same plane," said Padres left fielder Cory Spangenberg, who had two of those hits. "It's tough."
It was precisely the kind of effort the Padres have been searching for from their rotation this season. Through six games, San Diego starters have combined to allow 22 runs in 31 2/3 innings -- a 6.25 ERA.

The Rockies posed a familiar challenge to Richard, who struggled against them last season. Charlie Blackmon -- fresh off signing a six-year contract with Colorado earlier in the day -- started rallies in the first and second innings with a pair of singles. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story had RBI doubles in the first, and Ian Desmond plated two with a single in the second.
"Those guys are good, and we didn't pitch them very well [early]," Padres manager Andy Green said. "After that, I thought [Richard] settled in pretty nicely. The damage was done."

Richard went five innings and struck out six. But he also walked three and allowed eight hits -- including six balls in play at 100 mph or harder. After the game, Richard lamented his inability to keep the ball down in the strike zone.
"When you give a good offensive club enough pitches like that, they're going to hurt you," Richard said.
After Richard's exit, the Padres got 1-2-3 innings from sidearmers Adam Cimber and Kazuhisa Makita, sandwiched around two scoreless frames from Robbie Erlin. San Diego plated two runs in the eighth after Gray's exit, the first of which scored on an error by reliever Jake McGee, who couldn't corral a throw while covering first base.
The Rockies then called on Bryan Shaw to face pinch-hitter Hunter Renfroe, who smacked an RBI single to center field on Shaw's first pitch. In limited playing time this year, Renfroe is 3-for-10 with three walks and a pair of extra-base hits.

"He's had a really good start to the season," Green said. "Coming off the bench is new for him. That's not what he's accustomed to doing, but there's never been a complaint for him, and he's played well."
However, Shaw stifled the rally by getting Spangenberg to pop out, and Rockies closer Wade Davis slammed the door in the ninth.
What's the story?: With two men in scoring position in the first, Rockies shortstop Story came to the plate with Carlos Gonzalez on deck. The lefty Richard opted not to pitch around the right-handed-hitting Story. Instead, Richard hung a first-pitch slider to Story who popped a two-run double into the left-field corner, giving the Rockies a 3-0 lead.

Stranded in the sixth: The Padres put two men on base in the bottom of the sixth, the first time they did so. Facing the middle of the Padres' order, Gray responded nicely. He struck out Eric Hosmer with a 90-mph slider, then got Christian Villanueva -- who homered three times on Tuesday night -- to pop up to the catcher.

"You can't let this game bleed into that game. We have something to go off of from today. I understand that I can look at today and use it as a resource, but not dwell on it and think today's going to happen in five days. It's a new game. I'll attack it accordingly." -- Richard, who is in line to face the Rockies two more times this month
Villanueva became the first Padres player to start consecutive games at third base this year. He went 0-for-3 before being double-switched out of the game for Chase Headley, who went 0-for-2.
The Padres are still deciding how to divvy up playing time at the hot corner. Spangenberg is squarely in that mix. But on Wednesday, he played left field for the first time this year, including Spring Training. Green's effort to get Spangenberg's left-handed bat in the lineup paid off.
"Usually you want to be in one set position," said Spangenberg, who is 4-for-12 with two homers. "But in my situation, the more positions I can play, the more opportunities I'm going to get."
Left-hander Joey Lucchesi, the Padres' No. 9 prospect, was solid over 4 2/3 innings in his big league debut. Now, he's looking to build on that start. Lucchesi -- owner of one of the game's quirkiest and most deceptive windups -- will face the Rockies on Thursday at 12:40 p.m. PT.
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AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.