Padres MLN: Shaky pitching and defense

Peoria, AZ-- Pitcher Josh Geer dealt three scoreless innings for the Padres, but shaky relief pitching and sloppy play on the field relegated the home team to a 15-7 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers squad.

Josh Geer looked sharp with his two-seam fastball, striking out two Brewers and forcing two weak ground balls. Though he saw a little trouble in the top of the second inning after a one-two-three first, Geer pitched out of the jam confidently and without damage. In the third, he evoked a ground ball for a double play almost on cue after an error and a single put two baserunners aboard.

Unfortunately, the Padres' success ended there.

Jarrett Gardner struggled painfully in his two innings, giving up back-to-back-to-back doubles in the top of the fourth to set up a three-run inning for the Brewers. Gardner's fastball lacked much movement and the Brewers' bats cashed in on several weak fastballs. When pitching from the windup, Gardner's delivery looked lethargic, and his arm made me wonder for a moment if I was watching the game in slow-motion. In contrast, his delivery with runners on base was so rushed that his pitches lacked momentum and hung up in the strike zone, particularly in the fifth inning, when Gardner was touched up for four more runs. On a positive note, Gardner threw several commendable change-ups which left a couple of righty batters well out in front, fouling pitches off to the third base side. By the time Gardner found the change-up, though, he had already given up the seven earned runs.

Dick Hayhurst threw a changeup that was one of the best I've ever seen, striking out two Brewers in a row who had finished swinging before the ball reached the plate. But a missed catch by Mike Baxter on a playable ball to right field might have disrupted Hayhurst's rhythm. He fell behind to the next batter before leaving one over the heart of the plate for a ground-rule double.

Mark Roberts showed both extremes today, giving up a single, triple, and home-run in the seventh while netting two impressive strikeouts in the same inning. His curveball made two Brewer bats look like bulls chasing a matador's cape, but he didn't have much velocity on his follow-up fastball. Even the single given up by Roberts was a hard line drive to center field that foreshadowed his home-run to a similar spot a few batters later.

Matt Varner was behind five of the six batters he faced, forcing him into hitters' counts and – you guessed it – more extra base hits. For the second time in the game, the Brewers put together back-to-back-to-back doubles for three of their 11 total extra base hits.

On the field, the Padres struggled almost as mightily. Juan Senreiso committed only one "official" error on my scorecard – which was generous. Senreiso misplayed at least three balls in right field and one in right-center, where he intruded on Will Venable's territory enough that neither of them could make a play on a shallow fly ball. Venable is partly to blame; he must be more aggressive playing centerfield. He was not getting good jumps on balls most of the day, though. Senreiso also disappointed me with a lethargic throw from right field to third base that had neither velocity nor accuracy.

Mike Baxter mirrored Senreiso and Venable with shaky left-field defense, missing at least one catch on a routine fly ball that he lost in the sky, failing to get an adequate jump on a popup near the corner, and just barely catching a routine fly ball to left. First basemen Tim Brown seemed to catch some of the poor-fielding bug, too, adding a third missed catch.

Despite all the negativity, there were two positives to note on defense: David Freese and Sean Kazmar. Freese made a stunning throw on a ground ball to the third base side that drifted well into foul territory before he gloved it – the type of play that's typically the prerogative of a major league third baseman. Kazmar handled popups with blazing speed, catching one right on the first base line after calling off Tim Brown. Kazmar also turned the Padres' lone double play of the afternoon with accuracy and ease.

The Padres' hitting couldn't overcome their performance in the field, but Venable and Freese put on such a show that I felt like I was cheating someone without having paid for admission. Venable went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a walk, securing him three runs to lead the Padres and two RBIs. Freese made hitting look easy with a double and a triple that netted him three RBIs on a 3-for-4 performance. For Freese's attempt to cool down the red hot Brewers, he earns my "I can handle anything" award – but it's a shame that he couldn't bat for all nine spots.


Freese was hit by a pitch in the left shoulder in the third inning, but he showed no ill effects and no sign of pain or injury.

Yordany Ramirez reached base twice, both times on errors. He also hammered a ball on a 2-0 count to the warning track in deep left-field. His performance was most definitely better than it appeared on the surface.

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