ATLANTA — A day after their two teams combined to put up 17 runs, Sean Manaea and Charlie Morton faced off in a pitchers’ duel on Saturday at Truist Park. But when the game turned to the bullpen, both teams’ offenses began an assault and Manaea got the short end of the stick in San Diego’s 6-5 loss.
The 30-year-old struck out 12 batters — just one shy from his career high — over seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits. He produced the seventh-best whiff rate of his career (including the postseason), inducing 23 whiffs on 60 swings (38 percent).
“That’s some of the best pitching I’ve ever seen from [Manaea],” Morton said. “He had a lot of swing and miss, and he worked deep into the game. To pull a win out of that after watching Sean do what he did today, that’s huge.”
After giving up a solo homer to former Oakland teammate Matt Olson in the first inning, Manaea locked in. He allowed just two additional runs over another six-plus innings, but his teammates only plated one run during that span.
“He was pounding the zone and had all three pitches working,” Olson said. “He was elevating well with the fastball and he kept the changeup down. I’m sure a bunch of these guys hadn’t seen him a bunch. That’s always a factor.”
Everything changed in the eighth inning. The Padres brought in four runs on two hits and two errors by the Braves’ defense to take a 5-2 lead.
“These guys are doing all they can and this offense is amazing, so I trust everything they do,” Manaea said. “I just try to be consistent and take the ball every time that I can and go deep into games. So just things I can control and just keep it as simple as that.”
Manaea returned to the mound to begin the bottom half of the eighth.
“Well, he’d been throwing a tremendous game, and I talked to him in between innings, and he said he felt great, he wanted it,” Padres interim manager Ryan Christenson said. “I liked the matchup to start the inning.”
Manaea was “100 percent” that he was going back out for the eighth, even before the Padres put up four in the top half of the frame, to try to extend his start and give the bullpen extra rest.
“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. “I liked the way Manaea felt, I liked the way he was throwing. He obviously threw a fantastic game … ultimately, it didn’t work out.”
Already at 97 pitches, the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder had a short leash, and a walk to pinch-hitter Adam Duvall was how the night ended. He’s pitched a quality start six times in seven starts, yet the Padres have now lost four of his starts in a row.
With a three-run lead and six outs to go, the Padres bullpen faltered, allowing the Braves to strike back with four runs of their own. Steven Wilson was the first reliever to enter the game and took the loss, giving up three runs on three hits while recording just two outs.
“We have all the confidence in the world for [Wilson] to get the big out for us, and we’re gonna continue to have confidence,” Christenson.
Nabil Crismatt got the final out of the inning, but the damage had already been done.
“It’s a disappointing loss, but this is kind of indicative of how this series looks like, [how] it’s gonna be shaping up,” Christenson said. “I mean, this is two really good teams just slugging out at each other.”