Early strength turns sour as Padres fall in 12th

Tatis' clutch pinch-hit single, Lugo's early dominance not enough in marathon series finale

July 17th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- After Saturday’s doubleheader loss to the Phillies, Padres manager Bob Melvin called it a bad day. But after San Diego was edged by Philadelphia, 7-6, in 12 innings, Sunday might have been a little worse.

At 0-9, the Padres are the only team in the Majors without an extra-inning win this season. They're tied for the worst extra-inning record through 94 games since at least 1906.

“We haven’t executed as a team [in extra innings],” outfielder said. “It’s a huge moment, and somebody [has to come through] in the clutch.”

Even though San Diego dropped three consecutive games to Philadelphia, Melvin wanted to devote some of his focus to the positives of Sunday’s contest. He and the Padres were pleasantly surprised, for instance, to learn that Tatis’ sprained right ankle was much better than it had appeared, as Tatis came through with a pinch-hit two-run single in the eighth inning to tie the score at 5, then stayed in the game on defense.

“You have to [think in a positive manner],” Melvin said. "That, or you have to think about three losses we just had. All were pretty tough.”

What made it even worse was that Melvin was ejected in the top of the 12th inning, when home plate umpire Brock Ballou called a strike on pinch-hitter Rougned Odor leading off the frame because of a pitch timer violation.

Odor didn’t think he had violated the timer rule; he noticed that Phillies third baseman Edmundo Sosa had jogged in to pick up an object from the grass, and assumed that time had been called. But the pitch timer never stopped, and the violation stuck Odor in an 0-2 hole. He struck out a few pitches later for the first out of the inning, and after the Padres failed to score, the Phils walked it off in the bottom of the frame.

“I was waiting for the third baseman to go [back] to third base,” Odor said. “I was telling the umpire it was not the right call. … How are you going to let the clock keep going when the third baseman is not in position? He was almost near home plate. That’s what happened. [I’ve] never seen that before.”

Said Melvin: “There’s got to be a little common sense. It’s not that easy in a situation like that. Keep your eye on the pitcher, because there’s a lot going on.”

Early on, it didn’t seem like extra innings were on the horizon. Rather, it appeared that right-hander was going to pitch his best game of the season. Lugo dominated at the start, allowing just one hit through four scoreless innings on only 49 pitches. With some of San Diego’s bullpen pieces -- like Steven Wilson and Luis García -- unavailable, Melvin was hoping that Lugo would pitch clear through the seventh.

Wishful thinking.

Lugo’s tank ran empty by the sixth inning, and a 3-1 Padres lead quickly became a 5-3 deficit. The key was a two-run double down the left-field line by J.T. Realmuto. A few batters later, Tom Cosgrove, pitching in relief of Lugo, walked Drew Ellis with the bases loaded, bringing home an extra Phillies run. Lugo was charged with five runs in 5 1/3 innings, striking out five and allowing seven hits.

“It just happened in a hurry,” Melvin said. “The Phillies have a way of putting some pressure on you and getting some key hits. They have a deep team regardless. ... There’s no real break. It’s not like you have to go hard at [the top of the lineup], and have a little break at the end. They can match up at the bottom. It’s a really good team.”

Just as the Padres seemed to be making moves toward postseason contention -- having won six of their last seven games after Friday’s victory in the series opener to climb within three games of .500 -- San Diego has instead hit a roadblock, losing three consecutive games and dropping to 44-50, 10 games behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West and eight games behind the D-backs for the final Wild Card spot. The rough results have come from a combination of a struggling roster and bad luck: the Padres have the fourth-highest run differential ever among teams that lost at least 50 of their first 94 games.

San Diego now heads into a three-game series against the Blue Jays, starting Tuesday night in Toronto. The Padres hope that Tatis will be fully recovered from his ankle injury by then, and ready to spark the team into a winning streak.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Tatis said. “Tomorrow is an off-day. I’ll give the ankle some rest, and then we’ll see after that.”