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Padres rally before bullpen folds in loss to Braves

(Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

Four unearned runs in top of the eighth inning are answered by four Braves runs in the bottom of the eighth

The Padres have been riding the back end of their bullpen, speeding along the edge at times and going over a cliff at others.

Saturday, what arguably would have been the most resilient of their victories this season turned into another bad loss when the Braves scored four runs in the eighth inning to win 6-5.

It was the fourth time this season — and the third time in the past 13 games — the Padres have lost when leading in the eighth inning or later.

“It’s a disappointing loss, but this is kind of indicative of how this series looks like it’s going to be shaping up,” acting manager Ryan Christenson said. “I mean, this is two really good teams just slugging out at each other. (Friday’s) game was back and forth with one team delivering a blow and the other team answering and the other team delivering a blow and the team answering again. That’s the same thing that happened today.”

The Padres scored seven runs in the final three innings to win 11-6 Friday and scored four unearned runs in the top of the eighth inning Saturday to take a 5-2 lead.

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At that point, Christenson opted to try to get a little more from starting pitcher Sean Manaea.

“He’d been throwing a tremendous game,” Christenson said. “I talked to him in between innings. He said he felt great. He wanted it.”

That decision was also predicated to some extent on the workload having been put on reliever Luis Garcia making him an undesirable option.

“Once we went up three, I think we had a little bit more of a cushion to try to maybe sneak out one more inning and be a little less taxing on the bullpen,” Christenson said.

Manaea walked pinch-hitter Adam Duvall to start the bottom of the eighth before being replaced by rookie Steven Wilson.

Wilson got two quick outs, the second of which was a grounder that moved Duvall to second base. Ozzie Albies’ single scored Duvall, and Marcel Ozuna followed with a home run on a slider that didn’t dart as low as intended to tie the game 5-5.

Wilson (3-1) then hit Travis d’Arnaud with an 0-2 fastball. No one was up in the bullpen until then, and Wilson remained in the game. His third pitch to Austin Riley was a 93 mph fastball at the top of the strike zone that Riley laced to the gap in left field for an RBI double.

“At times he kind of loses the feel for his pitch,” Christenson said. “Every once in a while, a ball will get up. That’s what happened with the Ozuna pitch. Ball got away when he hit d’Arnaud there. It’s just him trying to find some consistency with his pitches in the zone.”

As for why he stuck with Wilson as long as he did, Christenson said, “We have all the confidence in the world for him to get the big outs for us. And we’re going to continue to have confidence.”

Wilson, who was in the training room and unavailable while the media was in the clubhouse postgame, has gotten big outs in multiple big situations. He was culpable in one of the previous three late-inning losses in which the bullpen coughed up a lead.

Manaea on Saturday turned in the Padres’ major league-leading 18th quality start. The team’s starters are 13-7 with a 3.51 ERA that ranks 10th in the major leagues, and that is over an MLB-high 189 2/3 innings.

While closer Taylor Rogers shares the National League lead with 13 saves and the bullpen has locked down a number of games, Padres relievers have a collective ERA of 4.37, which ranks fifth worst in the majors. Relievers have taken the loss in six games.

The Padres have lost Manaea’s past four starts despite his having gone at least six innings and given up just three runs in each of the past three.

“It’s baseball,” he said. “I’ve given up plenty of runs before and came back and won the game. It’s just how it goes.”

The Padres went down in order against Braves closer Kenley Jansen (2-0) in the ninth.

This was after they had simply survived long enough to be able to make sure Manaea wouldn’t lose another game he had pitched well enough to win.

Braves starter Charlie Morton bent curves in and out of the zone and hummed a 95 mph fastball for six innings, allowing a run on two hits and a walk and striking out nine.

Manaea walked off the mound after the seventh inning having struck out 12 — one off his career high — and with the Padres down 2-1.

He said he “100 percent” felt like he was going to stay in the game at that point.

“I felt really good,” he said.

And when he took the mound in the eighth, the Padres were up by three after they scored four unearned runs with help from errors by the Braves’ two capable corner infielders.

The eighth inning had begun with Ha-seong Kim facing reliever Will Smith, against whom he had hit a three-run homer the night before. Kim popped out this time.

Trent Grisham followed by rolling a grounder down the first base line and over the bag, behind which waited Matt Olson, a two-time Gold Glove winner, who had the ball bounce off his glove. Grisham ended up on second base, advanced to third on a wild pitch and tied the game 2-2 by scoring on Jorge Alfaro’s single.

Jake Cronenworth, who until then was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, sent a double to the wall in right-center field that moved Alfaro to third. Jurickson Profar walked to load the bases, and Braves manager Brian Snitker went to Jansen to face Manny Machado with the bases loaded.

Machado, who was 0-for-3 and had gone a season-high nine at-bats without a hit, grounded a ball to Riley at third. But what appeared to be an inning-ending double play ball turned into two runs when Riley’s throw to second base sailed wide and into right field. That allowed Alfaro and Cronenworth to score and Profar to get to third base.

When Eric Hosmer beat out another would-be double play grounder, Profar scored to make it 5-2.

“They have a really good offense,” Cronenworth said. “It’s been back and forth the first two games. We fought back today and scored four in the top of the eighth, and they came back in the bottom and got theirs. But we did a great job today. Morton had his best stuff, and we fought against a tough bullpen.”

Updates

5:37 p.m. May 14, 2022: This article was updated with postgame quotes and further reporting.


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