PITTSBURGH — Eric Hosmer was perhaps the most valuable Padre in April. Heck, he might’ve been the best player in the National League. So, yeah, this was a particularly cruel way for his (and the Padres’) month to end.
The Pirates walked off San Diego in 10 innings on Saturday night at PNC Park when Bryan Reynolds’ liner caromed off Hosmer’s glove and into right field. Ke’Bryan Hayes was initially ruled out at the plate, but replays showed Hosmer’s relay throw to be a split second late, and the Padres’ four-game winning streak came to an end with a 7-6 loss.
“It just stayed down, just went right under the glove,” said Hosmer, who was charged with an error. “Definitely a play I have to make.”
For Hosmer, in particular, it felt like an unjust way for his outstanding month to end. He had been practically flawless on defense until the 10th inning on Saturday night. Plus, it was Hosmer who had given the Padres a lead with a three-run homer in the fourth, before Manny Machado tacked on a two-run blast in the eighth.
Hosmer and Machado finished the month ranked first and second in the Majors in batting average — Hosmer at .389 and Machado at .386.
“He’s been great,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said of Hosmer. “A three-run homer tonight, Manny gets two. Usually we win those games. Those two guys continue to show up big for us. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t finish out a game that we have been finishing out all year.”
Three times on Saturday night, the Padres took a lead. Three times they relinquished it. After Machado’s two-run blast, right-hander Steven Wilson surrendered a two-run homer to Michael Chavis later in the frame. Then, after Trent Grisham put the Padres ahead with a single in the 10th, Luis García did not record an out in the bottom half of the inning.
“The bullpen’s been so good,” Melvin said. “Really, our one hiccup might’ve been Opening Day. Since then, they’ve been really good about finishing out games. In Wilson’s case, just a breaking ball up in the zone, and that’s two runs right there. We felt pretty good, after Manny’s homer, about where we were. Sometimes it just doesn’t play out the way you want it to.”
The Padres were a little short in their bullpen, having used closer Taylor Rogers on consecutive nights and right-hander Robert Suarez for two innings on Friday. So they asked Sean Manaea to shoulder a heavier burden than he’d done all season.
Manaea allowed three runs on five hits, exiting with two outs in the the seventh inning. It was the three walks that gnawed at him afterward. Manaea is, generally speaking, a reliable strike-thrower. Still, he covered 6 2/3 innings on a night when the Padres needed exactly that. Manaea’s 110 pitches were a season high and the fourth-most in his career — a leash he was given, with an extra day of rest before this start and an extra day of rest expected before his next one.
“It’s been a while since I’ve thrown past 100 pitches,” Manaea said. “To be able to do that and feel this good coming out of it, it was great. … Those [relievers] have been putting in work, so it’s my job as a starter to go as deep as I can.”
Manaea did that job, though he couldn’t quite capitalize on Hosmer’s three-run homer, surrendering the lead when the Pirates plated two in the fifth.
Hosmer’s home run was his third in the five games on the road trip. He and Machado have helped to carry an offense that had spent most of the month mired in a slump (though it has recently shown signs of life, particularly from Ha-Seong Kim and Jake Cronenworth).
Remember, it was only a month ago that Hosmer was at the center of trade speculation as Spring Training neared its end. Right now, it’s hard to imagine where this San Diego offense would be without his contributions. The Padres finished the month 14-8, their best end-of-April record, winning-percentage wise, since 2010.
“Yeah, it’s a good month,” Hosmer said. “It’s a winning month. We’re off to a good road trip so far. Obviously, we wanted this one, but we’re playing good baseball and we’re going to continue to do that. I think we have a lot more in the tank, and we haven’t fired on all cylinders yet.”