Waldron sets tone as Padres stifle Braves with 18 K's

May 18th, 2024

ATLANTA -- A dominant pitching performance was just what the doctor ordered for the Padres in a 3-1 victory over the Braves on Friday night at Truist Park.

Coming off a sweep at the hands of the last-place Rockies, Padres pitchers helped snap the three-game skid as five hurlers combined to allow just one run, striking out 18 Braves in nine innings.

It was the first time since Aug. 21, 2021, that the Padres’ pitching staff recorded at least 18 strikeouts and the 11th time it’s happened in club history.

“It’s impressive,” Padres manager Mike Shildt said. “[Starting pitcher ] was tremendous. [Reliever] Yuki [Matsui] did his job. One of the best ways to do it is control counts. I felt like we were controlling counts pretty much the whole night. The guys pitched pretty well.”

Waldron had a career night. In his second year of MLB service after being drafted 550th overall by Cleveland in 2019, Waldron tallied a career-high 10 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball.

Things got off to a shaky start for Waldron (2-5) in the bottom of the first. Ronald Acuña Jr. led off with a single, followed by an Ozzie Albies double to put runners on second and third with none out for National League RBI leader Marcell Ozuna.

Waldron struck out Ozuna, then Matt Olson hit an RBI single and Ozzie Albies was thrown out at third base on the play. With a strikeout of Travis d’Arnaud, Waldron escaped the jam with one run allowed.

“The first inning was like ‘Oh, here we go again,’” Waldron said. “It’s just how you handle it. There’s value in going deep in games. You get better [as the game goes on]. That’s your only option. Sure it was shaky there, but I have to make some adjustments.”

After the first, Waldron retired 14 of the final 18 batters he faced. He gave up five hits and issued two walks.

“Matt had [runners] on second and third with nobody out, he did some damage control to leave it with just one run,” Shildt said. “He settled down, and he gets better as he goes. The numbers [show that]. He was good. The knuckleball was great, and he had some life to that fastball.

It was the third time this season that Waldron went five-plus innings without allowing more than one run.

“Even if he didn’t have his knuckleball, he’s got pretty good normal stuff,” Olson said. “It’s not like he’s up there throwing an 80 mph fastball and 80 percent knuckleballs. It’s something you don’t typically see.”

After Waldron’s exit, the Padres (23-24) allowed only two hits over 3 1/3 innings. The 18 strikeouts were a season high for the Braves (26-15).

Shildt used closer in the eighth inning rather than in the save situation. Suarez, who is among the league leaders in saves with 12 this season, allowed two hits and allowed the Braves to get the potential tying run to second with two outs. He struck out Michael Harris II to end the frame.

“It was a tough part of their lineup at the very top,” Shildt said about bringing in Suarez for the eighth. “Outside of [the switch-hitting] Albies, who we prefer to have on the left side, it was [right-handed] hitters in a close game. It was time for Robert to go do that. We’re not going to do that all the time … but it made sense in the moment.”

Right-hander had the ninth inning for the Padres, and he struck out the side in order for his first career save.

“That’s huge, him being able to do that and gain the confidence,” Shildt said of Estrada’s first save. “Clearly he’s got the stuff, and now he’s able to graduate. We want to keep Robert in that [closer] role. The bullpen was tremendous tonight.”

In the top of the fifth, the Padres’ offense got to Braves starter Max Fried as San Diego tallied two hits with runners in scoring position. Jurickson Profar and Jake Cronenworth’s RBI singles helped San Diego take a 2-1 lead, and a Manny Machado RBI fielder’s choice tacked on the third run of the inning.

The Braves pulled Fried in the fifth. He went 4 1/3 innings allowing three runs on nine hits and two walks with two strikeouts.

“It’s great,” Waldron said of the run support. “Baseball has its ups and downs, but it’s a very good team, this team that we have, both on defense and on offense.”