The San Diego Padres went into their series-opener with the Kansas City Royals on Monday riding a five-game losing streak, including a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the Dodgers over the weekend.
Needless to say, they were in need of big performance against one of baseball’s worst teams. Luckily for the Padres, Michael Wacha put on his superhero cape and delivered one of the best performances by a Padres’ starter all season.
While the offense did enough to get the job done tonight, it was Wacha who held the Royals down and set the tone for the series that the Padres need to take advantage of before the Boston Red Sox come to town over the weekend.
Wacha not only took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, allowing his only hit of the game to the first batter he faced in the eighth inning before he was pulled by Bob Melvin after throwing 103 pitches, he also struck out a career-high 11 Royals while only walking one. Wacha had his whole arsenal on display on Monday night, relying heavily on well-located fastballs as well as using his famous changeup to keep the Royals off balance.
“Had a good fastball at the top, good breaking ball, throwing some cutters, had them really off-balance. Early on you had a pretty good idea that he was going to pitch a good game,” said Melvin after the game when talking about Wacha’s array of pitches that were working to keep the Royals’ hitters guessing.
The Padres offense, on the other hand, gave Wacha and the team a chance by walking 10 times and striking out only six times as a team, though they were only able to get five hits throughout the game, once again showing their difficulties of hitting with runners in scoring position, Fernando Tatis Jr. was the only Padre to collect multiple base hits. In all, the Padres left 16 runners on base, but again, did enough thanks to Wacha and Nick Martinez‘s excellent outing,
Coming into the game, the Royals’ starters had a combined 7.50 ERA in their previous 17 games. While their starter on Monday night, Brad Keller, did himself no favors by walking eight Padres, he also didn’t pay terribly for his lack of control, giving up only two earned runs and allowing just two hits in 3.2 innings of work.
A scary moment occurred for the Padres in the bottom of the second inning when Manny Machado was hit in the hand by a breaking ball from Keller which eventually knocked him out of the game, where he was replaced by Rougned Odor. While the severity of the injury is still unclear, it is not great news for the Padres or Machado who the Padres desperately need to get going if San Diego is going to turn their early struggles around.
“Had an x-ray, so there’s nothing broken in there. Guy hit him in the top of the hand. Might have gotten a nerve or something like that. For him to come out of a game, he can’t feel too terribly good, he’s got quite the pain tolerance. We’ll see how he is tomorrow,” said Melvin about Machado’s hit by pitch, finally providing an update that, while not ideal, is not as bad as it could have been.
The Padres will send to the mound Seth Lugo on Tuesday night to try and keep the momentum going against baseball’s second worst team. In order, for that to happen, the Padres will need to cash in more often with runners in scoring position, and will need to hope for the best with Machado’s injury.
Kevin is a San Diego Native covering the San Diego Padres and their affiliates