The Padres aren’t getting a lot of Blake Snell innings just yet. But they are getting a lot of Blake Snell in his innings.
Snell pitched four innings in the Padres’ 3-2 loss in eight innings against the Rockies on Wednesday in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Coors Field. Through his first eight starts with the Padres, he has pitched a total of 34 1/3 innings and has pitched into the sixth inning only once.
The Padres came away with a twin-bill split after taking the opener, 5-3, on the strength of Victor Caratini’s grand slam. They also earned a series win in the three-game set in Colorado and completed the road trip 3-3 despite losing five position players to COVID-19 protocols during the latter half of the trip.
The Padres also didn’t have Drew Pomeranz available in Colorado. After the veteran sat out the doubleheader, Padres manager Jayce Tingler revealed the left-hander has tightness in his lat area. Further details were not forthcoming.
Despite holding serve on the trip, the Padres head home with just as much uncertainty about their roster as they had when the COVID-19 issues arose Tuesday.
“Everybody contributing, everybody battling -- that’s what it’s going to take to get through having five guys down or so,” Tingler said.
Snell’s health isn’t an issue, but he also brings some uncertainty. His stuff certainly is there. His fastball hit 97 mph vs. the Rockies and sat above 95 mph. He struck out seven and got swings-and-misses from his four-seam fastball (six), slider (six) and curve (three). Snell, however, is not working efficiently.
After tossing 84 pitches in four innings Wednesday, he is averaging 19.3 pitches per inning. That’s the second-highest number among National League pitchers with at least 20 innings, behind only Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller (19.9).
“I’m obviously trying to work on things and trying to figure out why I’m pitching the way I’m pitching,” Snell said. “I’ve got to throw more strikes, get quicker outs. That will allow me to stay out there deeper into the game.”
Snell walked three batters and reached three balls against three other batters on Wednesday. For all his deep counts, it was a quick at-bat that cost Snell most. Josh Fuentes belted a two-run home run on a 1-0, 88.4 mph changeup in the second inning to put Colorado up, 2-1.
The Padres forced extra innings, but the bullpen was stretched thin by a series of short starts: Chris Paddack (three innings on Sunday), Dinelson Lamet (two innings on Tuesday) and Yu Darvish (four innings in the opener on Wednesday). With Pomeranz out, lefty Nick Ramirez, called up as the 27th man for the twin bill, was on the mound when matters were settled on Fuentes’ walk-off hit with two outs in the bottom of the eighth.
Tingler took encouragement from Snell’s finish. His fourth inning was a 12-pitch frame that included two strikeouts. Tingler said he probably would have let Snell hit for himself in the top of the fifth had it been a nine-inning game, offering more time to drum up some offense. Snell, Tingler said, looked like he’d straightened things out.
“If there was a highlight, it was the third and fourth innings,” Tingler said. “I thought he pitched aggressively with his fastball. Hopefully, that’s one to build on.”