Swingin’ Friars sweep A’s behind Merrill’s walk-off blast

Credit: MLB

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Aiming for their first sweep of the season, the Padres took a tense game to the bottom of the ninth, winning on a walk-off for the second night in a row.

Michael King took the mound for the Padres and showed the ace-caliber stuff that made him a key cog of the now-infamous Juan Soto trade.

King had it all going on Wednesday, recording 12 strikeouts through five innings.

His sweeper was particularly effective, getting a 67% whiff rate. Batters swung and missed at 38% of King’s pitches, only putting the ball in play seven times, with only three outs recorded on balls in play. A little further note to King’s dominance today: King’s mark of 12 strikeouts over five innings matched the Padres’ franchise record of strikeouts by a starter through five innings (h/t to MLB’s Sarah Langs).

While the Padres’ bullpen was down several of their high-leverage arms, Wandy Peralta was called upon to strand two runners on with no outs to start the sixth. Peralta would get the ground balls he and the Friars wanted- except for the fact that they snuck through the “5.5 hole” three straight times, including a bunt to give the A’s the lead. With Peralta not recording an out, Mike Shildt turned the ball over to Stephen Kolek. In his first high-leverage action since May, Kolek would record two strikeouts, leaning heavily on (statistically) his best pitch, the sinker, while stranding the bases loaded.

The Padres leaned heavily on the power in Wednesday’s game, with all of their runs crossing via the long ball.

Donovan Solano and Jackson Merrill were the stars of the game, both homering off A’s starter Hogan Harris. When the Padres were behind 4-2 in the eighth, the team clutched up when it mattered. Fernando Tatis Jr worked a walk against Oakland set-up man Lucas Erceg. Donovan Solano, whose previous homer came on the ninth pitch of an at-bat, roped the first pitch at 101 mph to left-center for a game-tying two-run homer, his first multi-home run game since August 4, 2019.

Robert Suarez’s availability was a question entering the game, but he came on in the ninth, marking the first time in his Major League career he had pitched in three games in a row (on three consecutive days). While he did not has as brief an outing as yesterday, Suarez held the A’s scoreless going to the bottom of the ninth.

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Against A’s closer and Rookie of the Year candidate Mason Miller, the Padres would mount a rally, and all it would take was a single swing. After Ha-Seong Kim grounded out (at 103 mph, mind you), Miller threw Jackson Merrill a slider on the lower-inner part of the plate that looked to be an attempt at a ‘backfoot slider.’ Merrill would turn on the pitch, golfing it in the air to right field. At 99.6 mph, with a 30° launch angle, Merrill’s swing sent the Friar Faithful into a frenzy, walking off the game, securing the win and a sweep of the Oakland A’s.

As Merrill would say postgame, “I’m just feeling hyped that we won the game. You know, we’ve been looking for a sweep all year, and when we finally got one, we’re ready to go on the road and do some damage…” The Padres seem to be doing just that, and this sweep could be the momentum they need for a six-game road trip looming ahead.

The Padres head to Queens for a three-game weekend series against the New York Mets. Matt Waldron takes the mound on Friday against old friend Sean Manaea.

The first pitch is at 4:10 pm Pacific.

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