CINCINNATI — Up until Tuesday, the Padres’ pitching staff and defense had carried the load during the opening month of the season. Holding teams to few runs with a stingy defense, it’d been their performance offensively that left plenty to be desired.
Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Reds, the Padres were batting just .221 on the season — good for 21st in the Majors — while leading the Majors defensively with a .997 fielding percentage, and sitting in the middle of the Majors with a 3.52 ERA.
The Padres defeated the struggling Reds Tuesday night, in a 9-6 victory to begin their eight game road trip. The San Diego offense erupted, tallying 12 hits, and remaining undefeated this season against their National League foes. Cincinnati had ended an 11-game losing streak just two nights before, including a streak of 99 consecutive innings without holding a lead at the end of the frame.
Cincinnati starting pitcher Reiver Sanmartin competed well in his first inning of work before running into problems soon thereafter. In the bottom of the third inning, Sanmartin allowed a solo home run to Ha-Seong Kim, which was just the start to San Diego’s two-inning long slugfest.
The very next inning, the Padres rallied for seven consecutive hits off Sanmartin, knocking him out of the game, and putting an eight spot on the scorecard. Their half of the inning saw 12 Padres come to the plate, forcing Cincinnati manager David Bell to make an early pitching change.
Getting a heavy dose of Sanmartin’s sinker ball — which he threw 29% of the time, according to Statcast — San Diego manager Bob Melvin said his hitters were waiting in the count for pitches they could elevate, and they eventually got them.
“The at-bats just seemed to get better the more we strung him along and passed the ball to the next guy,” Melvin said.
Melvin, along with first baseman Eric Hosmer, agreed that, as each hitter reached first base, their success became contagious to the next guy up.
“We made some good adjustments and kind of got in our zone and found out where we wanted the ball a little more,
said Melvin. “Credit to our offense. … Didn’t start out great, but definitely that second and third time through [the order] strung some good at-bats together and had a good inning.”
“The guys in front of us did a great job of getting it going, and we capitalized on those situations,” Hosmer said following the game.
With seven more road games before returning to Petco Park, getting off to a hot start offensively could go a long way in the coming days.
“I think it’s a great start to the road trip,” Melvin said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit offensively. We’ve had some games like this where we’ve scored a bunch of runs but we haven’t been able to do it consistently. Any time you get an eight run inning, you’d like to be able to follow it up later, but any time you can put [eight runs] up there we’ll take it.”
Despite scoring all of their runs between the two innings, the output provided more than enough insurance for starting pitcher Joe Musgrove who, despite not feeling right on the mound, got through six innings with a lead, and only threw 85 pitches.
Musgrove said, following the game, that the run support allowed him to go out and pitch a little bit differently.
“I was telling them, ‘Let me go have some fun, too,’” he joked.