SAN DIEGO — If you think positively, the Padres have played relatively well against a team expected to contend for a wild-card berth in the season’s first two games. If you are a pessimist, the Padres are 0-2, with a pair of brutal losses out of the gate. Stop me if you have heard this before.
The Padres took a three-run lead into the ninth, only to see Milwaukee score five runs off of All-Star Brad Hand, including a demoralizing three-run homer from former National League MVP Ryan Braun that gave the Brewers an 8-6 win at Petco Park.
The main storyline going into Friday’s game was the much-anticipated debut of LHP Joey Lucchesi, who pitched his way onto the roster after a strong spring. The number eight prospect on the MadFriars’ top-20 prospect list ran into trouble in the first inning, allowing a double to Lorenzo Cain, a rocket deep to left-center that was nearly caught by Manuel Margot. After Cain stole third, Braun drove him in with an RBI groundout.
Milwaukee right fielder Domingo Santana gave the Brewers a 2-0 lead when he split the left-center gap on a Lucchesi fastball. Lucchesi stranded Santana at second by inducing a grounder off of the bat of Brewers backstop Manny Piña.
San Diego took the lead in the bottom of the second on a pair of home runs. First, Cory Spangenberg drove a Jhoulys Chacin fastball the opposite way for a two-run shot to tie the game. Austin Hedges immediately followed with a line drive bomb to give the Padres a 3-2 lead.
“[Cory] swung the bat really well all day,“ said Padres manager Andy Green, shortly after Friday night’s game. “We had some tough breaks — a couple of line-drives off of [Brewers pitcher Brandon] Woodruff would have led to more runs.”
Two consecutive batted balls actually hit Woodruff flush. The second, by Spangenberg, caromed all the way to first base for an easy final out to the inning.
“Cory with the bat in his hands was really good. [He] made a couple of nice defensive plays too.”
Lucchesi was able to hold the lead through the next few innings, allowing just one hit in the second and third frame, before retiring the side in order in the fourth.
The former Southeast Missouri star allowed a pair of hits in fifth and allowed a run to score on a Ryan Braun sacrifice fly. Lucchesi induced a weak grounder for what should have been the final out but Spangenberg’s throwing error led to an early exit.
Lucchesi fell one out shy of being eligible for his first big league victory, allowing seven hits over 4.2 innings, striking out one without walking a batter.
“I was really nervous at first, [because] it was my first outing but I found a way to settle in and I was able to keep my team in the game, which is what I wanted to do,” said Lucchesi.
While the stat-line wasn’t awfully impressive, manager Andy Green had a positive takeaway on Lucchesi’s debut.
“He was good. Joey battled; he wasn’t his sharpest. I’ve seen his change get beneath the zone a lot more and he’s gotten chases on that in the past. It wasn’t doing that today, it was mostly up in the zone. The first inning, his fastball was leaking back. But as the game went on, I think he settled in pretty nicely.”
San Diego carried a 6-3 lead into the ninth when the club turned the game over to closer Brad Hand. Hand, who threw two innings (19 pitches) on opening day, struggled to put hitters away. He made a throwing error, in addition to three sharply hit singles. The damaging blow — a three-run shot off the bat of Ryan Braun — came on a fastball and an 0-2 count.
The Padres went down in order in the ninth, unable to replicate the rally they had on opening day.
NOTES: Manager Andy Green said that Wil Myers is day-to-day with back soreness. He was lifted in the seventh inning for pinch-runner Matt Szczur.