Snell struggles, bullpen blows lead in 7-6 loss

Credit: AP Photo

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Credit: AP Photo

The San Diego Padres’ offense did their best to come up with big hits to spoil the Atlanta Braves’ opening night. The Padres pitchers did their best to ensure that wouldn’t be the case, as Atlanta won 7-6 in walk-off fashion.

It was a second straight disappointing start for Blake Snell, who saw his usual demons return. The southpaw struggled with control, walking four batters in just 3.2 innings of work. Those four walks, combined with six hits for the Braves, meant that they scored four runs off Snell. San Diego trusted Snell to be their ace early in the season, with Joe Musgrove returning from injury and Yu Darvish needing time to be built up as a result of participating in the WBC. He has not delivered in either of his first two starts. “We had another short start, which limited the things we could do with the bullpen.”, said Bob Melvin.

However, despite facing Atlanta’s elite Spencer Strider, the Padres managed to stay in the game thanks to some big hits when they needed them. After recording only one hit in the first three innings, Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth got on base before Matt Carpenter hit a line drive to right field. His ball barely made it over the line, that signifies a home run, sending San Diego into a 3-2 lead. While Snell gave up the lead in the bottom of the inning, Cronenworth led off the sixth with his first homer of the season to tie the game at four. 

It wasn’t a pretty performance from Domingo Tapia, but he got the job done when it mattered. He left the bases loaded when he came in for Snell in the fourth before loading them on his own in the fifth. However, he induced a pop-out from Orlando Arica, wriggling his way out of the jam to keep the Padres within one. Cronenworth’s home run tied the game one batter later.

Steven Wilson recorded two massive shutout innings to keep the game tied headed into the eighth when the chaos resumed. Former Padre Kirby Yates walked Xander Bogaerts and Cronenworth to start the eight before both moved into scoring position on a Carpenter flyout. Yates threw a wild pitch, allowing Bogaerts to score, before he had a throwing error on Jose Azocar’s bunt, bringing home Cronenworth.

With San Diego ahead by two, Bob Melvin turned to Tim Hill. Melvin said before the game that 1-2 relievers were unavailable, including Luis Garcia, which may have been why he chose to go with Hill. The left-hander got outs from two of his first three hitters but allowed three straight singles that tied the game. “We have confidence in Timmy to get both lefties and righties out; they just hit some hard balls on the ground.”, said Melvin post-game. He would have allowed a fourth if not for a spectacular catch from Juan Soto in left, diving for a blooper. 

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Trent Grisham led off the ninth with a walk before a one-out infield single from Manny Machado put two men aboard. However, Xander Bogaerts hit the ball up the middle, and the Braves turned two, ending the inning.

Nabil Crismatt, who had struggled early in the season, came in to try and send the game to extras. After getting flyouts from Sean Murphy and Sam Hilliard, it looked like Crismatt would be able to succeed. He then allowed a double to Eddie Rosario before Arcia singled into centerfield, winning the game. 

It was another frustrating loss for the Padres, who saw their bullpen let another lead slip away in the late innings. Snell’s early struggles, combined with unavailable bullpen arms, meant that Bob Melvin was forced to use lower-leverage pitchers in big situations. They did not deliver, sending the Padres home as losers.

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