Missed opportunities cost Padres in frustrating NLCS Game 3 loss

Credit: AP Photo

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Credit: AP Photo

In a game of missed opportunities and poor hitting, the San Diego Padres dropped a winnable contest to fall a game behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS.

Joe Musgrove didn’t quite have his usual dominant stuff, Juan Soto and Manny Machado were limited to just one hit, and the Padres just couldn’t get it done against Philadelphia’s bullpen.

The first three batters of the game didn’t go the Padres’ way. All three worked the count full, meaning that Musgrove needed 19 pitches to face just three hitters. Kyle Schwarber led off the game with his second home run of the series, while Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto followed that up with a pair of walks. However, Musgrove wriggled his way out of trouble, inducing a double play from Bryce Harper and a groundout from Nick Castellanos. The right-hander found himself in a lot of trouble during his start, but the Phillies made him pay more times than not.

San Diego’s offense appeared to have no answers from Ranger Suarez early, as he struck out three of the first four batters he faced. Wil Myers flew out to the deepest part of the ballpark in the second, but that was the only ball the Padres produced with more than a .450 xBA. The Padres did manage to get a run across in the fourth to tie the game, with the Phillies beating themselves.

Juan Soto was hit by a pitch before racing to third on Brandon Drury’s shift-beating single. Jake Cronenworth appeared to have grounded into a back-breaking double play, but Jean Segura dropped the ball, bailing out the Padres. Myers and Jurickson Profar couldn’t come through with a runner in scoring position, bringing Philadelphia to the plate. With two outs and nobody on base, the Phillies staged a two-out rally. Alec Bohm singled up the middle before Bryson Stott won a long battle to double down the line. With two runners in scoring position, Musgrove looked to work his way out of trouble. Despite throwing a low slider, Segura went way out of the zone to slap a two-run single, putting the Phillies ahead for good.

Credit: AP Photo

The Phillies defense handed the Padres a run in the fifth when Hoskins misplayed a grounder from Trent Grisham, putting him on second. Two productive outs later, San Diego had halved the deficit. However, it was another inning of missed opportunities for the Friars, who went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. 

With reliever Zack Eflin in the game, a pair of one-out singles put runners on the corners with just one out. Manager Bob Melvin chose to bring Josh Bell in to pinch-hit for Wil Myers, with Bell grounding into an inning-ending double play. The switch-hitting first baseman was out by milliseconds, costing the Padres the tying run. 

Melvin elected to try and get one more inning out of Musgrove, and he retired Realmuto and Harper to get two outs. However, a pair of hits from Castellanos and Bohm ended Musgrove’s night and restored a two-run lead for Philadelphia. “I just couldn’t get a consistent feel.”, said the right-hander. Bohm’s single was just out of the diving reach of Juan Soto, who misplayed Bryson Stott’s second-inning double. “I felt like I battled well considering what control I had.”, added Musgrove, who finished with 5.2 innings of work, allowing four runs, which was his most of the postseason thus far.

Segura laid out to rob Ha-Seong Kim of a single that would’ve brought Soto to the plate as the go-ahead run in the seventh, helping to keep Jose Alvarado in the game. However, in the eighth, Alvarado allowed a leadoff single to Soto, bringing Seranthony Dominguez into the game. Dominguez struck out Manny Machado, knocked down a liner from Brandon Drury for an out, and the inning ended after Segura leapt to snag a soft liner from Cronenworth. 

Pierce Johnson recorded four outs between the seventh and eighth innings, which could prove critical. San Diego used just two relievers, Tim Hill and Johnson, while Philadelphia sent three pitchers to the mound, including their two-headed monster.

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Josh Bell led off the ninth inning with a single up the middle, bringing the tying run to the plate. Profar found himself in a 3-1 count, but he ended up striking out on a tight check swing call that swung the momentum. With San Diego feeling as if the world was against them, Grisham flew out, and Austin Nola whiffed, ending the game.

Game four will be Saturday, with it looking likely to be a pair of short performances from each team’s worst two starters. It’ll be a wild affair in a crucial game for the Padres, who will be anxious to even the series at two games apiece, stealing back home field advantage if they can do so.

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