Darvish stung by disengagement confusion in 12-K effort

April 17th, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres, in business since 1969, have lost many games in various ways but they’ve never tasted defeat in the manner they did on Sunday, falling to the Brewers, 1-0, at Petco Park

San Diego squandered its chance to split the four-game series because of a balk call, but one which was implemented just this season in a quest to increase the pace of play.

The Brewers scored a second-inning run on an unlikely series of occurrences.

Garrett Mitchell dropped a perfect bunt toward third, which Manny Machado barehanded and threw wildly to first -- still a base hit. 

Then right-hander , who was sensational, lost count of his number of disengagements and was cited for a balk in advancing Mitchell to second.

Darvish, though, was as surprised as anyone when the call was made. He wasn’t aware that when he stepped off the rubber earlier in Brian Anderson’s plate appearance that it qualified as his first disengagement from the rubber.

“I didn’t think that was a disengagement,’’ Darvish said through an interpreter. “But the umpires thought so.’’

When Darvish later threw over to first base, it was his second and last disengagement.

Then things really went sideways when Padres manager Bob Melvin signaled for a pitchout. But when catcher Austin Nola punched that order into the PitchCom he wore, it was transcribed to Darvish as a pick-off.

“There was a little bit of an issue of how we handled that one,’’ Melvin said. “Sometimes with PitchCom, you hit a button and it gives a different pitch. This time, it was from a pitch out to a throw over.’’ 

When Darvish paid a visit to Mitchell at first, home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled it as a disengagement violation and awarded second to Mitchell.

“That’s why we went out and talked to the home plate and other umpires,’’ Melvin said. “They were adamant that [they] let [Darvish] know there were two disengagements already.’’

The Brewers were under the impression, too, that Darvish had reached his disengagement limit.

From there, the speedy Mitchell keenly timed Darvish’s delivery and he easily swiped third base. When Anderson lifted a fly ball to left, Mitchell tagged and scored the game’s lone run.

It didn’t seem that consequential at the time but it was enough to send the Padres to their fourth loss in five games as they dropped their second-straight series and first one at home.

“Obviously, we are using some new technology earlier in the season so maybe there is an aspect of getting more used to it,’’ Darvish said. “But I think we will try to get it right the next time.’’

The Padres started quick at the plate, as the momentum from scoring 10 runs in beating the Brewers on Saturday seemed to enter the batter’s box with them. Xander Bogaerts singled to open the frame and Machado followed with a double, advancing Bogaerts to third.

But crafty left-hander Wade Miley tiptoed around the traffic, getting Juan Soto looking, Nelson Cruz swinging and Jake Cronenworth, who had two homers the previous day, on a fly ball.

San Diego didn’t make much noise from there -- a Nola double in the second, a Ha-Seong Kim single in the fourth, a hard liner to right by Cronenworth in the seventh that Joey Wiemer snagged with a diving catch.

The Padres sniffed an opportunity later in the seventh when third baseman Mike Brosseau committed a throwing error on Nola’s grounder. But Trent Grisham followed with a lazy fly ball to end the frame.

The Brewers, though, weren’t doing much either. They got two hits, and Darvish issued two free passes, from the third inning to the seventh.

After surrendering that lone run on four hits and two walks, Darvish gave way to reliever Steven Wilson in the eighth. Leaning on his incredible splitter, Darvish struck out a season-high 12 batters, which was just three off tying his career best.

It marked the 50th career double-digit strikeout game for Darvish, the seventh-most in the Majors since his 2012 debut season.
The Padres had one last chance when Soto drew a walk to open the ninth, and after two strikeouts, Kim singled to left and Nola walked. But Grisham went down looking on a full count.

Mark this defeat as among the most bizarre of the Padres’ 4,577 losses in franchise history. Oddly, an engaging game was decided on Darvish exceeding his number of disengagements with a single batter.