Petco Park- San Diego, California
Nobody said the Taco Train’s ride to and through the Promised Land was going to be easy, and today was no exception. Item #1 in the we always knew there’s be obstacles along the way department: young pitching, and having to rely on it. Eric Lauer, with nary half-dozen starts under his belt, was coming off a fine start against the Nationals but didn’t have it this afternoon versus the Marlins.
In the first it took him 34 pitches to get three outs, holding the Marlins to a four-spot while he was at it. Hard hit balls all over the field. Things got so bad in the third that after the Marlins pushed across another run and were threatening for more, manager Andy Green pulled the rarely seen third inning double switch, yanking Lauer for Robbie Erlin and double switching Matt Szczur for Manny Margot in center. Erlin immediately induced the double play to escape further damage.
He went on to keep the Marlins at bay through the sixth and beyond. Robbie has had two very poor starts but out of the pen he’s been dynamite. Today was a good day for Robbie Erlin.
The Padres’ offense, on the other hand, remained moribund. Little plate discipline, and an inability to hit their pitch when they get their pitch, instead of fouling it off and having to hit a tougher pitch next time, continues to plague the squad. Short of a massive blood infusion from the 1927 Yankees, I’m not sure what can be done. They pounded out three hits through six and were losing 5-1 at the two-thirds pole.
In the seventh Erlin remained on the mound and aside from an inexcusable miscommunication between Franmil Reyes and Jose Pirela in short right field, was once again on point. The galactic bats of the Pads were back on the display in the bottom half. I didn’t keep particular track or anything, but by my guesstimation through the seventh inning our beloved Padre Warriors had hit into 2,427,317 pop ups, resulting in numerous outs. Also, Pirela and A.J. Ellis had hit line drives into left field where ex-Padre Cameron Maybin made a couple of circus catches. Other than that, squat. Into the eighth we went.
After Erlin got through yet another inning (going an outstanding 5 and 2/3 of no run ball), Travis Jankowski pinch hit leading off the bottom of the eighth with a single. But after yet another pop-up this time from Szczur, Pirela smoked a one-hopper for a twin killing which sent the boys to the ninth down four.
No question the bright light of the game is Erlin, who not only went five and two-thirds scoreless, but did it with pitch efficiency (64 pitches) and no free passes. As a long man out of the pen, you couldn’t ask for anything more from the southpaw. He located his fastball wherever he please, and his big hook/slider was dropping in to great effect.
They brought in Bryan Mitchell in the ninth to see if he could get an inning of work in without any damage. After a line single to center, a lineout to second got one out. A routine fly to center got the second. But what would be a Padres game without some more adventures in the outfield and a deep fly ball over Hunter Renfroe’s head in left spun him around like a top, adding another run for Florida. A follow-up line drive single made it 7-1. The Marlins were 5-for-7 with runners in scoring position on the day. The inning came to a merciful close.
With one out Christian Villanueva hit one off the top of the center field wall for an easy as you please double. Since his 0-for-37 slump, Christian has been tearing the cover off the ball. After a wild pitch, an RBI-infield single by Renfroe got Villanueva home. That was that, however, and 7-2 to the bad guys was the final score.
Sloppy defense, banjo hitting, quiet crowd. It wasn’t much of a day to write home about if you’re a fan of the Taco Train.
Tomorrow is another day.