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Padres' offense flummoxed by Dodgers' Maeda

Tough road trip ends as 12 Friars strike out swinging
@AJCassavell
May 16, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- The Padres miss Fernando Tatis Jr.. How could they not? During his first month in the big leagues, Tatis emerged as one of the game’s most exciting offensive weapons, a uniquely talented rookie both at the plate and on the bases. When the 20-year-old shortstop phenom went

LOS ANGELES -- The Padres miss Fernando Tatis Jr..

How could they not? During his first month in the big leagues, Tatis emerged as one of the game’s most exciting offensive weapons, a uniquely talented rookie both at the plate and on the bases. When the 20-year-old shortstop phenom went down with a hamstring strain late last month, it was always clear his absence would be felt.

Box score

Perhaps never more so than this week in Los Angeles. The Padres dropped two games to the Dodgers, including a 2-0 defeat on Wednesday night. Kenta Maeda continually baffled San Diego hitters with offspeed pitches out of the strike zone. Those hitters just kept chasing.

Maeda fanned 12 Padres over 6 2/3 innings. All 12 strikeouts were swinging, and nine of them came on pitches outside the zone, according to Statcast. Make no mistake, Maeda was excellent. But the Padres made it easier on him.

“He's tough on righties, always has been,” said Padres manager Andy Green. “When he gets that pitch off the plate, away -- and there were some pitches right there off the plate -- he becomes tougher.”

Padres left-hander Matt Strahm was mostly sharp over his five innings. He struck out five and allowed two runs -- when two Dodgers reached on infield singles in the second, and Maeda plated both with a seeing-eye blooper to right.

The San Diego bats never punched back. Manny Machado, who doubled in the fourth and walked in the ninth, was the only runner to reach scoring position. The Padres combined for four hits, and Machado’s was the only walk.

The Friars have now dropped four of five games against the first-place Dodgers this season. Their dreams of a National League West race appear to be fading fast. The gap between the two clubs is six games after the Padres’ 1-4 trip through Colorado and Los Angeles.

“Definitely a tough road trip,” said first baseman Eric Hosmer. “That's baseball. We've got to figure out a way to get it done. … You learn from it, you flush it as soon as you can, and you move on to the next series.”

It’s no guarantee that Tatis’ presence would’ve changed things. But the Padres’ lineup is clearly better when he’s in it. There’s a gaping hole in the leadoff spot and at third base (with Machado forced to slide to short). Since the injury, here’s the Padres’ production from those spots:

Third base: .157/.218/.294
Leadoff: .230/.299/.377

The Padres haven’t been clear about Tatis’ potential return, only to say it’s “not imminent.” He’s currently at the team’s complex in Peoria, Ariz., where he’s going through baseball activities.

“He's a big part of what we do,” Green said before the game. “It's up to us to find a way to win when he's not here. But he's a catalyst for us. We're looking forward to having him back.”

The sooner, the better, and Wednesday offered the latest example as to why.

Hosmer gets creative

As bunts go, this one was a moonshot.

The Dodgers shifted on Hosmer in the ninth inning Wednesday. After the Padres first baseman swung through strike one from Kenley Jansen, he decide to dropped one down toward third. Hosmer pushed it well past the bag, and the ball even rolled a few feet onto the outfield grass.

“If they’re going to give me the hole over there, then I’d try and get something on that side,” Hosmer said. “... We need baserunners. We're down two. Off a guy like Kenley, you've got to figure any way to get on there. You've got Hunter [Renfroe] behind you as well, and he can do some damage with one swing. I was just trying to keep the line moving.”

It was the Padres’ 11th bunt hit, the most in the Majors this season. Earlier this month, they notched two against Jansen during the ninth-inning rally before Renfroe hit his walk-off grand slam.

Hosmer’s bunt Wednesday had the same effect, bringing Renfroe to the plate as the tying run. But Renfroe struck out, and pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson followed by doing the same.

Kinsler tossed

The Padres were none too pleased with the strike zone of home-plate ump Scott Barry on Wednesday night. Most notably: They felt Maeda was being given pitches off the outside corner.

With Ty France at the plate in the fifth, several Padres chirped at Barry when they felt he’d missed a call. Barry turned toward those players standing on the dugout railing and told them to stop. Second baseman Ian Kinsler -- on the bench Wednesday -- did not, and he was promptly ejected.

“He’d heard it from a number of us, myself included,” Green said. “He picked his target.”

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.