Padres can't finish A's after Musgrove's start

Melancon labors in tying 9th, Oakland caps finale rally with walk-off double in 10th

August 5th, 2021

OAKLAND -- was nearing the end. His pitch count was approaching the century mark, the universal signifier that a starter’s outing will soon be over. A runner already stood on first base. Allowing a hit or a walk would likely end Musgrove's outing before he could finish six innings. But if he could get a ground ball, he’d finish what he started.

On his 99th pitch of the day, Musgrove left a slider high and inside to Josh Harrison. Musgrove’s former teammate took a hearty hack and banged it into the ground for an inning-ending double play. The sixth inning was over and, by extension, so was Musgrove’s day.

Musgrove, who threw six innings of one-run ball in the Padres’ 5-4, 10-inning loss to the A’s on Wednesday at Oakland Coliseum, logged his third straight quality start before San Diego’s bullpen faltered in the later innings. Musgrove subtly pumped his fist as he walked off the field. Upon reaching the dugout, he emphatically high-fived manager Jayce Tingler, who slapped Musgrove on the lower back, congratulating his starter for a job well done.

“Anytime you’re coming up around that 100-pitch mark, you know your day’s gonna be coming to an end soon,” Musgrove said. “A lot of scenarios run through your head and you try to eliminate any of the extra internal conversations that you have.”

Musgrove ended up with a no-decision as Oakland tapped into its trademark late-game heroics, scoring two runs in the ninth to tie the game and two more in the 10th to steal a win from San Diego and split the two-game Interleague set.

All-Star closer Mark Melancon allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, yielding a blooped, game-tying single to pinch-hitter Yan Gomes with two outs and two strikes, sending the game to extras.

San Diego took the lead right back in the 10th as Ha-Seong Kim, pinch-running for Victor Caratini, scored on Tommy Pham’s weakly-hit grounder and an error by Matt Chapman, but the A’s had more extra-inning magic left.

After Starling Marte’s bloop single to right field, Matt Olson banged a double off the right-field wall against Tim Hill. Right fielder Wil Myers had trouble seeing the ball off the bat due to the intense sunshine and didn’t cleanly play the carom, allowing Marte to score all the way from first and Olson to play the hero.

“You definitely want to walk away with a great two-game series,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “We played really well all series. Just wasn’t able to get that last out today.”

“I don’t think we did all that poorly of locating pitches,” Musgrove said. “I think they were putting tough at-bats together.”

To counter Oakland’s tough hitters, Musgrove turned to the curveball early and often. Musgrove threw 37 in the finale, the most he’s thrown in a single outing. The curveball also accounted for 37.4 percent of the pitches he threw, the highest rate that he’s thrown the pitch in a single outing. Musgrove wasn’t his sharpest; he walked three batters, hit two and didn’t have a clean inning. But with a good feel on his curveball, Musgrove still limited the A's big bats to just the lone run.

The right-hander’s lone mistake of the finale, ironically enough, came on a hanging curveball to Jed Lowrie that the veteran sent over the right-field fence for a no-doubt home run. Aside from Lowrie’s homer, Oakland couldn’t muster another hit off the breaking pitch.

“I let the game tell me what to throw,” Musgrove said. “They were having a hard time hitting the breaking ball. I had a good time landing and putting it in good spots. When my strength matches their weakness, it feels like that’s what you got to stick with.”

Oakland hasn’t been the only team having trouble hitting Musgrove as of late. In Musgrove’s last three outings, all quality starts, he yielded just two runs across 19 innings (0.97 ERA) with 20 strikeouts, one of his best three-game stretches of the season.

The Padres will need these quality outings from Musgrove down the stretch as they attempt to secure a spot in the postseason.

Musgrove has been excellent since being acquired in a trade with the Pirates, but San Diego’s starting rotation, as a whole, has not lived up to its preseason hype. The Padres are relying on Musgrove to churn out quality work, and even on a day when he wasn’t his crispest, he did just that.