Bullpen steps up for Padres in 5-4 win over Atlanta

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Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After a back-and-forth game went the Atlanta Braves way on Thursday night, the San Diego Padres got their revenge on Friday. Nelson Cruz had three hits, and San Diego’s struggling bullpen came up with 4.1 shutout innings to help get a 5-4 win. 

The Padres offense wasted no time breaking down the rookie John Shuster. Juan Soto walked on four pitches before Manny Machado reached on an infield single. San Diego caught a break when Nelson Cruz dropped a bloop double into right field, scoring Soto. Atlanta’s rookie starter got wild, walking Ha-Seong Kim and Austin Nola, with Nola’s walk forcing home Machado.

Cruz added a second RBI in the next inning, as his 102.8 miles per hour single brought home Jose Azocar to double San Diego’s lead. After going hitless in his first seven at-bats of the season, Cruz went four for his next seven, including a home run, which was helped by his multi-hit start on Friday. “He’s a professional hitter; between him and {Matt} Carpenter, we feel like we have a pretty good situation in the DH spot.”, praised Bob Melvin post-game.

That two-run lead looked good early with Nick Martinez dealing. He needed just 26 pitches to record his first six outs of the night, mowing through the powerful Braves lineup. Marcell Ozuna put an end to that when he led off the third inning with a massive 440-foot home run. Atlanta used a pair of walks to set the table before an Austin Riley single and a wild pitch tied the game at three. 

San Diego was able to chase Shuster from the game when Machado and Cruz led off the inning with a double and a single, putting runners on the corners. Michael Tonkin allowed Machado to come home on Jake Cronenworth’s sacrifice fly, but he got out of the jam with the Braves down just one.

Just like in the series opener, the Padres and the Braves were like two heavyweight boxers. It was Atlanta’s turn to throw a haymaker when they got Nick Martinez into major trouble. The Braves had runners on first and second with one out when Austin Riley walked to load the bases. Riley appeared to swing on the 3-2 pitch, but first base umpire Chad Fairchild disagreed. Martinez struck out Ozzie Albies but walked Sean Murphy to tie the game, ending Martinez’s night. 

Brent Honeywell came in and struck out Eddie Rosario to limit the damage, though Rosario did send a foul ball just feet left of the foul pole. “To be able to get us that, for a guy who didn’t know what his role was, was huge.”, said Bob Melvin after the game. 

San Diego played small ball to punch right back when Jose Azocar moved Trent Grisham into scoring position with a bunt. The red-hot Xander Bogaerts sent a check-swing single into right field, putting the Padres right back on top.

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Honeywell came up with a quick 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, so Melvin allowed him to pitch into his third separate inning. He got two outs, but those were sandwiched around a pair of walks, which led to him departing the game. Luis Garcia entered with the go-ahead run in scoring position. Despite starting his night with five consecutive balls, he got Rosario to pop out, preserving San Diego’s lead. It was the second time in three innings that a Padres reliever retired Rosario to leave the bases loaded.

The bottom of the eighth started inauspiciously when Bogaerts’ throw sailed, allowing Rosario to reach first base. However, the shortstop immediately atoned for his miscue, racing to second base before firing to first to complete a double play. “He’s {Bogaerts} been huge for us early in the year.”, said Nelson Cruz after the game. Sam Hilliard hit a two-out single, but Azocar snagged a line drive to end the eighth. 

San Diego’s 2-3-4 hitters couldn’t come up with any insurance runs, so it was up to Josh Hader to protect the one-run lead. On his 29th birthday, Hader sealed the win with his third save of the campaign. He was his usual fantastic self, evening the series at one.

Michael Wacha will face off against Charlie Morton on Saturday as the Padres’ series with Atlanta continues. 

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