SAN FRANCISCO -- All season, Tyson Ross has served as the anchor of the San Diego rotation. Entering Thursday on a four-game losing streak, the Padres needed a big-time performance from their veteran right-hander.They got one. But they didn't supply the offense.Ross and Giants starter Madison Bumgarner dueled at AT&T
SAN FRANCISCO -- All season, Tyson Ross has served as the anchor of the San Diego rotation. Entering Thursday on a four-game losing streak, the Padres needed a big-time performance from their veteran right-hander.
They got one. But they didn't supply the offense.
Ross and Giants starter Madison Bumgarner dueled at AT&T Park, a head-to-head showdown that showcased the best of the two National League West stalwarts. In a 3-0 Padres loss, Bumgarner's fifth-inning sacrifice fly helped separate the two starters.
"You want to go toe-to-toe with the other guy, just give your team a chance to win," Ross said. "He was a little bit better tonight."
Ross threw seven innings of one-run ball, working quickly and down in the strike zone. He allowed four hits and struck out three before he was removed in the seventh for a pinch-hitter.
"He threw a great game today," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He definitely deserved a better fate."
The Giants tacked on two runs in the eighth against reliever Phil Maton. Meanwhile, Ross was a bit unlucky to even allow one. With a man on first in the fifth, Joe Panik snuck a soft-contact double barely inside the right-field line. Two batters later, Bumgarner lifted a fly ball to left, giving the Giants a 1-0 lead
In the runs column, Bumgarner was only better than Ross because of his own offensive contribution. He went eight innings and allowed three hits and struck out eight. Only Manuel Margot solved him. The surging center fielder roped two doubles, one down each foul line.
"He didn't make many mistakes tonight," said left fielder William Myers, who went 0-for-3 with a walk in his return from the disabled list. "He mixed up his pitches more than he usually does."
It was the Padres' fifth straight loss, but Ross' effort could have some long-term effects. As an upcoming free agent this offseason, he's certain to be on the trade block when the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches. Thursday offered the latest proof that he could be an effective starter for a contender.
Ross signed a Minor League deal with the Padres in December. At the time, it was probably fair that the rest of the baseball world was tentative. The 31-year-old missed nearly all of 2016 with shoulder troubles, and he struggled in '17 after surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.
Over the first three months of this season, Ross has answered those questions. His ERA dipped to 3.34 on Thursday, and the Padres are 10-5 in his starts. He's commanding his fastball as well as he ever has, making his lights-out slider that much more effective.
"It's a more mature pitcher," Green said. "He was an All-Star then, so that's saying a lot. But he's grown, and he's worked incredibly hard to get back to where he is."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Stop sign: The Padres' best chance to score came in the fifth when Margot hit a liner that one-hopped the right-field wall. Jose Pirela, who led off with a single, attempted to score on the play, despite a stop sign from third-base coach Glenn Hoffman. Pirela was out by about 15 feet, and Bumgarner escaped with ease. With two outs, Bumgarner intentionally walked A.J. Ellis before striking out Ross on three pitches.
"He's hard-effort, max-effort all the time, and you love that," Green said of Pirela. "You don't want to ever take that away. But when you see a stop sign, you've got to turn that off. That's what it comes down to. He hadn't done that in the three years we've had him. He's not that type of player."
Dropping the ball: Pirela's rough night took another turn in the bottom of the eighth. Alen Hanson led off with a triple and scored on Buster Posey's RBI single. The Padres nearly escaped with minimal damage, when Pablo Sandoval sent a two-out bloop to shallow right. Pirela tracked it down, but the ball bounced out of his glove, and Posey scored on the error. The Giants led, 3-0.
Bumgarner relied heavily on his offspeed pitches, throwing 36 fastballs in his 100 offerings (not including cutters). That's the lowest rate of fastballs Bumgarner has used in any of his eight starts against the Padres since Statcast™ began tracking at the start of 2016.
"There was a lot of offspeed thrown, a lot more than I've ever seen him throw, and a different type of mix than he's ever thrown," Green said. "It caught us off-guard."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Typically, a 6-4-3 double-play ball features a barehand flip from the shortstop into the second baseman's glove. Pirela and Freddy Galvis flipped that script in the first. Andrew McCutchen sent a sharp grounder to Galvis, who flipped with his glove into Pirela's bare hand. The second baseman threw to Eric Hosmer for an inning-ending double play, the first of nine straight hitters retired by Ross.
HE SAID IT
"It's all about movement and location. When I was younger, I just used to come out and let it eat, throw as hard as I could for as many pitches as I would last, and the results were whatever they were. Over the years, I've seen a lot of good pitchers change speeds, locations and use their movement. ... I just tried to adapt that and add it to my own game." -- Ross, on his change in mindset
Clayton Richard struggled in his last start in San Francisco on May 2. He allowed seven runs in four innings and saw his ERA jump to 6.21. Since then, he's notched a 3.03 mark, and he's worked at least six innings in all eight of his starts. Richard gets a rematch with the Giants on Friday at 7:15 p.m. PT. San Francisco counters with right-hander Chris Stratton.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.