Petco Park – San Diego, California
The San Diego Padres came into Saturday night’s contest against the Arizona Diamondbacks with an eight-game winning streak which had seen them play as well as any point this season.
Friday night’s series opener against Arizona was the pinnacle of the team’s hot stretch thanks to a historic performance from Fernando Tatis Jr. in the team’s 11-5 victory. Tatis Jr. hit three home runs for the first time in his career, the winning streak stayed alive and well, and Petco Park oozed electricity.
On the flip side, the Padres’ opponent for the weekend series was dealing with a streak of their own, a losing streak of epic proportions that only got worse after the San Diego victory last night. Going into game two Saturday night, the Diamondbacks had dropped 34 of their last 37 games, including 20 of their previous 21. To make matters worse, Friday night’s loss in San Diego was Arizona’s 24th straight loss away from home.
To put it simply, the Diamondbacks and Padres were going in two completely opposite directions, making Saturday night a potential trap for a team that had all the fixings to keep the momentum rolling forward.
Things began poorly for San Diego on Saturday night when starting pitcher Dinelson Lamet, coming off of his most physically demanding outing of the season, gave up back-to-back hits that led to a 1-0 deficit for San Diego.
The deficit for the Padres, though just a single run, was the first time in 51 innings that the Padres trailed in a game. More importantly for San Diego, however, was that Lamet was in the beginning stages of an extremely concerning performance that was cut short due to unspecified injury concerns.
Manager Jayce Tingler, when asked when he first noticed warning signs from Lamet, responded, “Just probably after the second inning, and then we were just kind of watching the warm-ups in the third. We got to some counts where he would usually go to that put-away slider, so when he wasn’t using that, that’s when our antennas went up a little bit.”
After only 2.1 innings pitched, Lamet had obvious velocity-related issues that led to the righty allowing four runs on six hits, including home runs in the second and third innings. Lamet’s slider was the most obvious sign of abnormality, with command and velocity fluctuating.
When asked about the potential effect of Lamet’s slider issues in relation to MLB’s new policing with pitchers and substances, Tingler said, “I don’t think there’s anything there. I think it’s more we’ve known that it’s going to be some obstacles getting him through.”
The comments from Tingler dually suggested that Lamet’s issues were not a result of the crackdown while seemingly implying that the early exit was a part of the process versus a worrisome setback.
Lamet was replaced by rookie Mason Thompson, who was rushed into the game out of necessity and finished out the third inning without a blemish.
From that point in the ballgame, the Diamondbacks held the Padres down while continuing to pile on to their early lead.
In three innings of work following Thompson, right-hander Nabil Crismatt struggled to contain Arizona’s offense as well, giving up a pair of runs in both the fourth and sixth inning. At that point, the Diamondbacks had put up eight runs on San Diego while silencing Padres’ bats.
In six innings of work, Diamondbacks’ starter Merrill Kelly held the Padres scoreless, allowing only five hits and striking out five. Kelly benefited greatly from his offense’s support and turned the tides on the Padres lineup, which had been on a tear during their previous eight games.
Arizona would tack on two more runs in the top half of the eighth inning, extending the lead to 10-0. The Padres tacked on a run in the bottom of the ninth to avoid a shutout, with Tommy Pham driving home catcher Webster Rivas for the only run of the night.
Arizona looked like a totally different team Saturday night, starting from the very first pitch. They scored runs in six of the nine innings and totaled 16 hits.
With the Diamondbacks ending their losing streak on the road and the Padres having their home winning streak derailed, the pressure will be on when both teams look for a series win Sunday afternoon.