HRs bite Musgrove as depth eludes SD staff

May 9th, 2021

The Padres headed north for their weekend series vs. the Giants a half-game out of first place with two-thirds of their rotation’s Big Three lined up to pitch.

The outings for Blake Snell and are in the rearview mirror, and the Giants are assured of remaining in first place when the Padres depart San Francisco. San Diego’s 7-1 loss on Saturday afternoon at Oracle Park left the Giants with a lead of 2 1/2 games in the National League West, as well as a series victory.

Musgrove struck out seven with his usual heavy reliance on his slider, but the right-hander got through only five innings and allowed four runs via a pair of homers by left-handed-hitting veterans Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt.

“I felt pretty good about my stuff,” Musgrove said. “I could have executed location-wise a little better, but I felt I attacked the zone, threw strikes. … The big knocks, the homers, hurt me, but I felt in control, felt like I did a good job pitching out of jams.”

Crawford pulled a first-pitch, 91.3 mph cut fastball over the right-field wall for a three-run homer in the second inning. Belt connected with a full-count curveball for a solo homer in the fifth inning. It was the first homer Musgrove has allowed on a curve since July 25, 2019, when he was pitching for the Pirates against the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong.

The homers Saturday proved too much to overcome with the Padres’ bats quiet against Kevin Gausman, who came off the injured list to strike out seven over six innings of one-run ball.

San Diego manager Jayce Tingler tinkered with the lineup a bit, elevating Fernando Tatis Jr. into the leadoff spot in search of a spark. Tatis delivered two singles, but the Padres were held to just one run for the third time in their past six games.

“Offensively, it’s frustrating to know we’re not playing the way we’re capable of, to keep the line moving, get that unit playing together and stringing at-bats together,” said Tingler, who was ejected by home-plate umpire Nic Lentz in the sixth inning for arguing balls and strikes.

The quiet offense, of course, puts pressure on the pitchers to be nearly perfect. Through four starts, Musgrove was up to that challenge, boasting a 1.04 ERA, a no-hitter and three outings of at least six innings. In his past three starts, however, he has totaled 13 innings with a 6.92 ERA.

Musgrove had 11 swing-and-miss pitches on Saturday, including seven on sliders. He credited the Giants, who faced him in San Diego six days earlier, with some good takes on breaking pitches out of the strike zone, pitches that batters were chasing early in the year.

Musgrove’s bump in the road comes as Snell has yet to pitch more than 5 1/3 innings in any Padres start. Snell went 4 2/3 innings in a series-opening loss Friday, allowing four runs on six walks and one hit.

With more than one-fifth of the season complete, Tingler said he’s ready to ask his core starters for more depth.

“We’re getting to the point where if they’re able to find their rhythm and timing, we’re capable of going another inning or two with the majority of those guys,” Tingler said.

That isn’t likely to come Sunday. The Padres did not announce a starter for the series finale, but Tingler said it’s possible that Chris Paddack would be available. Paddack was placed on the injured list April 30 for an undisclosed reason. The right-hander hasn’t pitched since April 27 and has pitched into the sixth inning only once this season.

The Big Three of Yu Darvish, Snell and Musgrove have given the rotation a solid foundation as injuries have clouded things behind them. Musgrove welcomes the mandate to pitch deeper into games moving forward.

“Being efficient, getting those quick outs is helpful,” Musgrove said. “Ultimately, it’s just being on the attack, making guys swing the bat, knowing when to expand [the strike zone], just challenging guys.”