Darvish stumbles with Padres in defining stretch

August 26th, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- Joe Musgrove is hoping the Padres stay in the postseason picture long enough for him to come back and make an impact in September or October.

Musgrove played catch pregame Friday, his first time since going on the 15-day injured list on Aug. 4. But the Padres got no closer to postseason play once the game started:  struggled as the Padres lost, 7-3, to the Brewers at American Family Field.

Musgrove, who’s on the IL with right shoulder capsule inflammation and last pitched July 28, started a two-week throwing progression as he builds up his arm strength, with an eye on returning late next month.

But as key as the next few weeks are for Musgrove, they will be just as revealing for the Padres’ fading postseason chances. With a month left in the season, San Diego faces an upward climb to get to October.

“There’s no need for me to be rushing and pushing things back if we're out of this thing,” Musgrove said. “But I have full confidence that we're going to be in it, so these first two weeks are going to be important in just laying down the foundation work and then being able to open up from there.

“It's difficult knowing that there's a chance I might not touch a mound again this year. But every part of me mentally and physically is preparing to be able to get at least one more in the regular season and then be strong for the playoffs.”

The Padres dropped to 61-68 with their loss in the series opener and fell to 6 1/2 games behind the Cubs for the final National League Wild Card spot. The Padres are also behind the Reds, Giants and Marlins in the race.

“We know what's ahead of us,” manager Bob Melvin said pregame. “There's certainly a finish line in sight right now, and you have a little better idea of what you have to do.”

In that vein, Friday would count as a disappointment.

Darvish allowed five runs and six hits in four innings, throwing 76 pitches. He was sharp in the first two innings, limiting Milwaukee to a Christian Yelich leadoff walk -- which he erased by getting William Contreras to ground into a double play -- and Mark Canha single.

But the Brewers batted around in the third inning and scored five times on five hits. Rowdy Tellez delivered the biggest blow, crushing a three-run homer on a curveball left up in the zone.

“That was probably the pitch to go to, just because that’s something I think they weren’t necessarily expecting,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “But it went a little bit higher in the zone, more than I wanted it to.”

Darvish opened the month with back-to-back quality starts, against the playoff-contending Dodgers and Mariners. He has allowed four or more earned runs in each of his past three outings. 

“Just some location stuff today,” Melvin said. “It looked like he had good stuff to start. Obviously, the pitch to Tellez was the big one, as far as where it went. I didn't want him to have to go back out there and throw 100 pitches in five innings. Just not his best outing.”

Padres batters also struggled. They struck out 17 times, and 11 came against Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff. They put two runners on with one out against Woodruff in the third, after Trent Grisham struck out in a 16-pitch at-bat to start the inning, and didn’t score.

They had one run until Gary Sánchez’s two-run homer in the ninth.

“It was pretty much the only time we really had a shot at him, with a couple guys on base,” Melvin said of that third-inning chance. “He throws 96 miles an hour. It looks like 100, and the rest of the guys who came in behind him were throwing 100, too. 

“Pretty tough night for us at the plate, as far as the strikeouts go. But [Grisham’s] was probably one of those at-bats that sometimes can ignite something, get some guys on. Just couldn't do anything with it.”