SAN DIEGO — Two starts in a row now, Joe Musgrove has walked off the Petco Park mound to a raucous ovation from his hometown.
This time, however, Musgrove was a bit irked. He had been dominant all night. Then came the seventh inning, and he began allowing some hard contact. His stuff wasn’t quite as crisp. Frustrated, Musgrove handed the ball to manager Bob Melvin and began his walk toward the dugout.
Then came the chorus of 31,313 on a Tuesday night at Petco Park. And Musgrove, serenaded by San Diego, was reminded of something.
“I never take that stuff for granted,” Musgrove said after the Padres’ 6-2 victory. “It always feels good to have the support of your hometown. The energy that those fans have been bringing every night has been a big driving force for us. It’s something that we don’t take for granted.”
Since his arrival prior to the 2021 season, Musgrove has been the Padres’ steadiest pitcher. He posted a 3.18 ERA last season and was named Padres pitcher of the year. In 2022, he has looked, more or less, like the same guy.
Better, perhaps. For the first time in his career, Musgrove has begun the season with three consecutive starts of at least six innings. (And he did so after a shortened Spring Training.) Through those three outings, Musgrove has a 1.89 ERA and a 0.74 WHIP.
“I’m just being aggressive,” Musgrove said. “When the offense puts up a couple runs early, it allows me to go out there and be aggressive without the worry. … Whenever I get a lead, I’m attacking the zone.”
Tuesday’s game, at least for the first few batters, looked an awful lot like the one that preceded it on Monday night. Former Padre Tommy Pham, greeted by a chorus of boos at Petco Park, opened the scoring with a booming home run off Musgrove in the top of the first inning (much like he’d done to Sean Manaea the night before).
But, as he did on Monday, Manny Machado answered with a two-run homer of his own, plating Austin Nola (who had led off with a single for the second night in a row) and putting the Padres on top for good.
“He’s just a big-time player,” Melvin said of Machado. “He knows the moment.”
Stephenson adjusted to catch the baseball over the plate, leaving Voit without much of a lane as he began his slide. Built like a linebacker at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Voit collided with Stephenson, who exited the game after the play and was placed in concussion protocol.
“It was going to be, obviously, a close play,” Voit said. “You obviously have no idea where the ball’s going to be. It just happens, man. You can’t really explain that situation. I try to avoid, try to be safe. That play ended up happening. I think it was just impressive he hung onto the ball, honestly.”
The Reds, however, did not see the slide quite so innocently. Pham called it “dirty.” Farmer called it “a wrestling move.” If there are any scores to be settled, the two teams will have a chance to do so in the series finale Wednesday at 1:10 p.m. PT.