Suarez's first blown save echoes 2022 NLCS

June 19th, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- No Major League loss feels good, but some can hurt worse than others. The Padres’ ninth-inning meltdown on Tuesday night undoubtedly fits into that category.

The Phillies scored twice in their final turn at the plate, needing only seven pitches from closer to rap four hits. The final two -- Bryson Stott’s game-tying single and Nick Castellanos’ walk-off double -- came on Suarez’s final two pitches, sending Citizens Bank Park into a frenzy and the dejected Padres to the clubhouse to cope with their fifth straight loss, this one a 4-3 decision.

“It’s hard to articulate; it clearly hurts,” manager Mike Shildt said. “You scratch and claw, do everything we possibly could to win a game. We did a lot of good things right, and the end wasn’t good enough. …

“This was shaping up to be a really nice team win with a lot of contributions from everybody. Those contributions don't count as much when you don't bring it home.”

Those contributions included a gritty performance by Michael King, a solid night from the rest of the bullpen and a clutch home run from Luis Campusano, who was struck by one of King’s pitches in what the pitcher called “the bad area” in the fourth inning and then smacked a go-ahead two-run homer against Aaron Nola in the sixth.

“I don't even know how he stayed in the game,” said King, who needed 100 pitches to get through 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball. “I had the best angle of it, and I saw it go straight to the bad area. He’s a gamer.”

Early on, it seemed like the crowd might be witnessing history, as Nola sat down the first 13 hitters he faced, cruising through the lineup with ease. Donovan Solano’s fifth-inning single gave San Diego its first baserunner, but he was quickly erased on a “strike ’em out, throw ’em out” double play.

The way Nola was going, Brandon Marsh’s fourth-inning RBI single against King looked like it might be enough. Campusano changed that with his two-run blast in the sixth, while Jurickson Profar added an RBI single later in the inning, pushing the lead to 3-1.

“We didn't have a lot of opportunities,” Shildt said. “But we took advantage of the ones we had.”

The Padres’ bullpen worked around baserunners in every inning, but it wasn’t until Kyle Schwarber hit yet another home run to trim the lead to a run in the eighth inning.

Enter Suarez, who was a perfect 17-for-17 in save opportunities this season. Not only hadn’t the right-hander blown a save in 2024, but the Padres were 28-0 in games in which he appeared.

“Robert has been tremendous for us all year,” Shildt said. “This guy's been amazing.”

When he retired Trea Turner to end the eighth, Suarez -- who hadn’t faced the Phillies since he gave up a go-ahead homer to Bryce Harper in this very ballpark in Game 5 of the 2022 NLCS -- was three outs away from ending the Padres’ losing streak.

Turner wound up as the last out he recorded.

Harper singled on the second pitch he saw to open the bottom of the ninth, then Bohm stung Suarez’s next offering to center, putting the tying and winning runs on base. Stott took two balls before singling in Harper to tie the game. Then Castellanos jumped on the next pitch, looping it to right field. The ball eluded a sliding Fernando Tatis Jr., bouncing inside the foul line before hitting a fan in the stands for a ground-rule double.

“It's part of the game,” Suarez said through an interpreter. “We have to keep the mentality that we're going to go out there and win every single day and continue to battle.”

Seven pitches. Four hits. Two runs. One stunned team.

“Clearly it happened quick -- a lot of action in a short period of time,” Shildt said. “It was quick and slow at the same time.”

The Padres walked out of the ballpark preparing for a quick turnaround, as they’ll try to avoid a winless road trip on Wednesday in a matinee. Matt Waldron will take his shot at the Phillies’ dangerous lineup, while the Padres’ hitters will face Ranger Suárez, who leads the National League with 10 wins and a 1.77 ERA.

“It's a tough spot to be in when that happens,” Campusano said. “You live and you learn, try to make our adjustments off of this and come back tomorrow, try to secure a win.”