Offensive woes persist in frustrating series loss to Giants

Credit: Jose Farjardo

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After a much-needed win Saturday to even the series with the San Francisco Giants 1-1, the San Diego Padres looked to knuckle-baller Matt Waldron to get the Friars’ first series win of 2024.

In Waldron’s first start against the St. Louis Cardinals to begin April, he pitched four innings and allowed four earned runs. The right-hander’s subpar performance underscored the starting rotation’s early season blunders that changed after April 1.

“I have a ton of confidence in our starters,” said Mike Shildt in an interview after Waldron’s rough start against the Red Birds. “They’re gonna be just fine. They’re gonna carry the mail for us.”

Since Shildt’s comments, the Padres starting pitching has been excellent. While the offense remains a whirlwind of inconsistency, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Dylan Cease, and Michael King have all combined for 26 innings pitched and six earned runs, a changed narrative from the first six games of the season.

Waldron followed the rotation’s upward trend, bouncing back from his first start. The knuckle-baller went five and ⅓ innings, giving up just three hits and not a single earned run.

With the recent offensive inconsistencies, San Diego had a challenge: face Giants ace Logan Webb, who turned in a quality start, going six innings and giving up two earned runs in the Padres home opener against San Francisco in March.

However, Webb entered Sunday’s start off a rough night against the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he allowed five earned runs in just three and ⅔ innings, inflating the hurler’s ERA to 6.52.

The Padres jumped on the board in the first inning. After Fernando Tatis Jr. smoked a 107-MPH bullet into left field for a one-out single, Jake Cronenworth stayed hot and crushed a 400-foot double off the center field wall to score Tatis.

After a zero from Waldron in which he worked out of some pressure, double plays continued to kill rallies, a theme of the series. In the first two games in San Francisco, Manny Machado grounded into two twin killings.

With runners on first and second, Kyle Higashioka rolled his wrists and ended a second-inning rally started by Jurickson Profar and Jackson Merrill with a 5-4-3 double play.

The Friars extended the lead in the sixth. First, Machado and Cronenwoth executed a perfect hit and run, as Cronenworth ran on the 3-2 from Webb, and Machado punched a 109-MPH rocket through a vacated right side to allow Cronenworth to advance from first to third.

Then, Ha-Seong Kim dumped an RBI single into left field to make it 2-0.

After five and ⅓ strong innings, Waldron exited with Lamonte Wade Jr. on first and Jung Hoo Lee on second. Lee reached on a rare throwing error by Kim

After Waldron’s exit, in a somewhat surprising move, despite having three lefties available in the bullpen, Shildt went to right-hander Stephen Kolek to face the left-handed Michael Conforto with one out.

Kolek walked Conforto to load the bases but then enforced a 6-4 groundout, with Lee crossing the plate to cut the Padres lead in half 2-1.

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However, Kolek struck out Thairo Estrada on three nasty sweepers, the last of which moved over 24 horizontal inches, to end the inning.

After the pitching limited the damage to end the sixth inning, the offense missed a major scoring opportunity in the seventh as the bats failed to score in a frame that began with runners on first and second and nobody out.

First, Higashioka could not get a sacrifice bunt down and struck out on a 0-2 attempt. Then Xander Bogaerts narrowly avoided a 6-4-3 double play and beat the throw to first bring up Tatis, who grounded out to end the frame.

Following Kolek’s ⅔ of an inning in relief, southpaw Yuki Matsui pitched an excellent one and ⅓ innings, allowing Shildt to go to right-hander Jhony Brito with one out in the eighth inning.

Pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores greeted Brito with a single, followed by a Jorge Soler 67-MPH bloop single that allowed Flores to advance to third.

With one out, Conforto smacked a groundball to Cronenworth at first, who tagged his base, making the play at second a tag play. However, instead of an inning-ending double play, Soler’s slide at second knocked the ball out of Kim’s glove, the Gold Glover’s second error of the afternoon.

The Giants tied the score on the error and took the lead on a Matt Chapman single.

After Merrill collected his fourth hit of the day off flamethrower Camilo Doval with two outs in the ninth, Luis Campusano pinch-hit for Higashioka, striking out to end the game and series.

Even though there were multiple defensive miscues that led to San Francisco runs, the greater frustration stems from the continued offensive inconsistencies.

On a day when the five-starter Waldron did not allow a run and the bats notched 11 hits, the offense could not convert in big situations.

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