The San Diego Padres went into the ninth inning with a two-run lead and a 90% chance to win the game.
Four batters later, the Padres were in the clubhouse, and the Diamondbacks were celebrating on the field. MLB debutant Robert Suarez (who put all three hitters he faced on base via two walks and a hit by pitch) and Craig Stammen (who allowed Seth Beer to end the night with a three-run home run) will deservingly bear the blame. However, the Padres offense needs to recognize that they produced just two runs, four hits and didn’t pick up a hit for the final five innings. The offense absolutely put it in park, and they kept the Diamondbacks in the game. The Padres wasted six hitless innings from Yu Darvish, left seven runners on base, and went just 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position. It was a truly dismal night for the Friars, who lost 4-2.
The only bright spot of the night was that Darvish was absolutely sensational. He only struck out three Diamondback batters, and he did walk four, but everything was clicking for the right-hander. There were a lot of balls in play for Padres fielders, but none of the contact was strong contact. Darvish allowed just one ball that was hit at over 100 miles per hour, and that was a ground ball. He also didn’t allow a single batted ball that had over a 41% chance of being a hit. Darvish got off to a strong start as he induced a pop out from Daulton Varsho and struck out Ketel Marte. He did allow David Peralta to reach base on a walk, but Wil Myers tracked down a well-hit line drive from Christian Walkers to retire the side.
Darvish was in complete control from there onwards. He retired eight of the next nine Diamondbacks hitters, with the only exception being a walk to Geraldo Perdomo. After walking Pavin Smith in the fourth inning, Darvish finished his night by sitting down seven of the last eight batters he faced. He struggled to put hitters away, and his pitch count reflected that. Despite not allowing a single hit, he had already thrown 91 pitches in six innings. Since it was opening day, new manager Bob Melvin decided to lift Darvish from the game.
Tim Hill and Pierce Johnson combined to get the Padres to the ninth inning. Hill allowed two hits, but he also recorded a double play before being lifted. Pavin Smith’s single broke up the combined no-hit bid, but Johnson struck out Perdomo to end the seventh. Johnson stayed in the game for the eighth inning, sitting down Varsho and Peralta with strikeouts, and he induced a weak grounder from Marte. Johnson and Hill’s work sent the game to the ninth inning, with the Padres having a two-run lead thanks to their limited offense.
Eric Hosmer’s two-out double in the second inning was the first hit of the Padres season, but Jurickson Profar struck out to strand Hosmer. The Padres batters showed stellar discipline in the third inning. Ha-Seong Kim won a 12 pitch battle with Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner by drawing a walk. After Trent Grisham and Austin Nola were retired, Manny Machado drew another walk before Jake Cronenworth loaded the bases for Luke Voit. Voit, who was making his Padres debut, went down 0-2, but he took four straight balls to bring in the first run of the season for the Padres. Bumgarner did sit Wil Myers down to end the inning, but the 41 pitches he threw in the inning ended his night early.
The Padres tacked on a second run in the fourth inning. Eric Hosmer led off the frame with a hard-hit lineout, but Jurickson Profar reached base on a single. Kim grounded into a fielder’s choice, meaning the Padres had two outs. However, Kim went first to third on a Trent Grisham single that was scorched. Grisham’s 107.8 mile per hour hit was the highest exit velocity of the night. Austin Nola dinked a four-hopper through the right side to bring home Kim to double the Padres’ advantage. However, it was the final hit of the night for the Padres, who could produce just three walks from their final 17 plate appearances.
The lack of any insurance runs meant that the game was still within reach when Robert Suarez came into the game. As newly acquired closer Taylor Rodgers had flown all day, he was unavailable, according to Melvin, so he had to go to Suarez. He had excelled in Japan for the past five seasons, but he never looked in control in Arizona. He walked the first two batters on just nine pitches before hitting Carson Kelly to load the bases. Melvin made the switch to Stammen, but he was hardly any better than Saurez. On his first pitch, he spiked a curveball, allowing Christian Walker to score and bringing the winning run into scoring position. On his second and final pitch, he hung a curveball that Seth Beer deposited into the right-field seats.
The Padres failed to finish, failed to produce offensively, and critically failed to win. They can’t afford to let games like these slip away. However, it is just game number one. They’ll have 161 more chances to show who they are.