SAN DIEGO -- In the wildest, craziest, most bizarre game of their wild, crazy and bizarre season, the Padres, on three separate occasions, were left empty-handed with a pitcher at the plate.
It was that kind of night for the struggling Padres, who have lost 11 of 13.
It was that kind of night for manager Jayce Tingler.
The Padres and Dodgers staged more than their usual share of drama in a wild 16-inning classic at Petco Park on Wednesday, the longest game ever played under the current extra-innings format. Fernando Tatis Jr.’s two-run blast tied the game in the bottom of the 15th inning. But Dodgers left fielder AJ Pollock hit a two-run shot in the 16th that proved decisive, as Los Angeles held on for a 5-3 victory.
“This,” said Padres left-hander Blake Snell, who started the game and pitched a career-high 7 2/3 dominant innings, “was really weird.”
In the end, the Padres were left to rue another crushing defeat, a flurry of missed opportunities, and a small handful of decisions that got them there.
Of course, any game that lasts this long with this many twists and turns is subject to all sorts of make-or-break decisions, particularly in the National League. It’s important to point out, too, that the Padres’ bats went ice cold, after just about every one of those decisions. They would finish with just four hits across 16 innings.
But even still, Tingler’s night was defined by a handful of curious calls. Here’s a quick rundown of three of them:
1. Letting Snell pitch
Make no mistake, this was as dominant as Snell has looked as a Padre. He blanked the Dodgers for seven innings, punctuating the top of the seventh with a picture-perfect fastball on the outside corner to punch out Corey Seager. Snell pirouetted, then hopped off the mound. Petco Park erupted.
It felt like a fitting end to Snell’s night. And then it wasn’t. With two right-handers due up to start the eighth inning, Tingler made the decision to ride his dominant left-hander, passing on righty Daniel Hudson, who was loose in the bullpen.
“He had everything working,” Tingler said of Snell. “It’s as simple as that. I thought we were going to ride or die right there. We were going to take him, as long as he was throwing the ball well, through [Cody] Bellinger.”
The gamble worked for a batter. Snell punched out Chris Taylor to start the frame. Then he made a solid pitch to Will Smith, a high fastball above the letters. Smith sent a towering drive into the left-field seats, tying the game at 1, and sending the night into all sorts of weirdness.
First, Tingler noted that his reasoning for subbing Marisnick into left field rather than Tommy Pham was defense. Marisnick is, indeed, an elite defensive outfielder. But the game was tied, and it was always possible that Marisnick’s spot in the lineup would come up in a pivotal moment. Sure enough, in the 10th, it did.
With the winning run on third base and Dodgers left-hander Alex Vesia on the mound, Tingler opted to pinch-hit with Pham for Marisnick. No sooner had Pham emerged from the on-deck circle than he was intentionally walked -- one of an MLB-record eight intentional walks by the Dodgers.
Marisnick, with solid splits against left-handed pitching, could’ve hit for himself, preserving Pham’s bat. Instead, Pham, the Padres’ best bench bat on Wednesday, proceeded directly to first base.
“Right there, I wanted to go with Tommy,” Tingler said. “They walked him, and you still feel good with [Adam] Frazier behind him, first and third.”
Frazier popped out. Then, with the pitcher’s spot due up, Victor Caratini was the Padres’ last remaining bench piece. He struck out looking.
3. Who’s hitting fifth?
When the dust had settled from a wild bottom of the 10th, Tingler had some decisions left to make. Caratini needed to remain in the game, because the Padres had used infielder Ha-Seong Kim to pinch-run for starting catcher Austin Nola as the automatic runner. Pham remained in the game in left field, too.
The Padres needed to decide whether to keep Kim in the game at second base, batting fifth. Or leave the fifth spot open as the pitcher’s spot, while Frazier remained in the game batting eighth.
They chose the latter -- with disastrous consequences. In the 11th inning, the Dodgers intentionally walked Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth, then struck out pitcher Joe Musgrove with the bases loaded. In the 13th, they walked Machado and Cronenworth again, getting pitcher Ryan Weathers to ground out with the bases loaded. The situation was different in the 15th, after Tatis’ home run. But Cronenworth got another free pass before pitcher Daniel Camarena struck out.
The reality of the Padres’ situation was this: They thinned their bench early in an effort to win the game quickly because of their heavily taxed bullpen. But that effort was compromised when they chose not to double switch Kim into the No. 5 spot.
"We just went as is,” Tingler said. “And we were trying to obviously score runs but obviously keep them off the board.”
Ultimately, that would put the game on the bat of three different pitchers. They, like the Padres on Wednesday night, came up empty.