PITTSBURGH -- The Padres had everything they needed. They stayed in a back-and-forth game, even as Joey Lucchesi allowed four runs in five innings. They found the “big hits” that manager Andy Green said had been lacking in the first two games of their weekend series with the Pirates at
PITTSBURGH -- The Padres had everything they needed. They stayed in a back-and-forth game, even as Joey Lucchesi allowed four runs in five innings. They found the “big hits” that manager Andy Green said had been lacking in the first two games of their weekend series with the Pirates at PNC Park.
The main thing missing was the one that had been there all year long: a save by Kirby Yates. After converting all 26 save opportunities to begin the season, Yates blew his first one on Sunday. He allowed three runs in the ninth inning to extend the game, and the Padres fell in 11 innings, 11-10, to conclude a three-game sweep at the hands of the Pirates.
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The Padres got back to their offense, even without the help of a home run, but it’s hard to find joy in much after a grueling, five-hour loss to end a sweep.
“I don’t think there’s any solace in anything right now,” Green said. “There are a bunch of guys that are [upset] after that game that’d like to win that baseball game. You’re up three twice, and you don’t come away with it.”
So how did this crazy game end up the way it did?
The Padres’ day at the plate was book-ended by a few exceptional aggressive plays that helped them get some breathing room.
First, Fernando Tatis Jr. made a head-turning choice on a shallow fly ball, which landed in the glove of Pirates second baseman Kevin Newman. The dynamic rookie saw Newman “sleep” a bit, turning to short as if to toss the ball around the horn, and Tatis took off.
“That was a special way to start a baseball game off,” Green said. “He’s a special athlete, and he does incredible things.”
Then, Manuel Margot, who had entered Sunday on a 5-for-11 stretch largely as a productive pinch-hitter, had his wits in the biggest moment of the day.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the 11th inning, Margot saw the infield playing back. On the first pitch he saw from Francisco Liriano, he laid down a bunt near the first-base line, and though Josh Bell fielded it in time to toss to first, no one was covering.
“That’s a hitter’s read at that point in time,” Green said. “We talk about those types of things, but to do it with the bases loaded is incredibly rare, especially with two outs. It was a good read, great execution.”
Margot’s hit was one of a handful of big ones on the day. After not recording a hit in consecutive games for the first time since March 30-31, Tatis came through with a go-ahead single in the fourth, then a game-tying single in the sixth.
Manny Machado doubled twice to put runners on first and second in both the first and 11th innings. And it wasn’t necessarily even the hits, either -- the Padres drew eight walks, their second-highest mark this season, to set up the clutch knocks.
Green said he has certainly seen an improvement in “offensive trend lines” this month, and some of that showed Sunday, but he didn’t find much comfort in the breakthrough.
Yates was given a three-run lead in the ninth inning, and with his perfect track record this season, he was in line to set a Padres franchise record with 27 saves in the first half.
The closer appeared to have gotten the first out on a grounder to Machado. But the third baseman’s second fielding error of the series set up a long outing for Yates, who allowed three consecutive hits -- including an RBI single that Newman practically hit off the plate -- before Melky Cabrera’s RBI groundout tied the score at 7.
“There were a couple of good pitches that they hit, but there were a couple of bad pitches that they hit,” Yates said. “I wasn’t necessarily sharp today. I missed a few pitches, and they hit it. I think when I made my pitch, they put it in play and they just put it in perfect spots. You live with it, get better and move on.”
Yates isn’t concerned about his perfect streak of saves coming to an end. He isn’t in the closer’s role for his own name or reputation. He’s just upset it cost the team a win.
“If I blew a save and we came back to win, I’d do it 100 times,” he said.
His rough outing was just a part of a largely troublesome month of June for Padres relievers. After Phil Maton and Matt Wisler combined to allow four runs in the decisive 11th, the bullpen’s ERA moved to 6.54 in that span.
Jake Crouse is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter @JakeCrouseMLB.