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CRAZY EIGHT

April 8, 2018
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While it’s true that not every one of the Padres’ eight losses so far this season have been crazy ones, there certainly have been enough strange events through 10 games to make one feel as if something mysterious is afoot.

No doubt that 2-and-8 is not great. Not good. Not acceptable. But some weird things have contributed to the season’s agonizingly slow start.

The misfortune began on opening day, after shortstop Freddie Galvis dramatically tied the game against Milwaukee with a two-out RBI-single in the ninth inning. In the 11th, Chase Headley batted with the bases loaded, one out and the chance to send everybody home happy. Headley sent a ground ball the opposite way, towards the famed 5.5-hole. But third baseman Travis Shaw was playing off the line and turned the bouncer into an inning-ending double play.

The Brewers would win, 2-1, with a two-out rally in the top of the next inning. Then came the next night.

An All-Star last year, and the surest thing on the Padres’ pitching staff, Brad Hand waltzed to the mound with a 6-3 lead and only three outs to get. Despite allowing a couple of two-strike hits and committing an error, Hand was still poised to close out the victory when he faced Ryan Braun with a one-run lead and two out.

With two strikes on him, Braun stunningly slammed a game-winning three-run homer off the Western Metal Supply Co. building. Milwaukee 8, Padres 6.

A couple more losses, these of the more routine variety, would follow before the Friars would run into some more rotten luck. Hand again was the victim, this time undone by the glove-tight and seemingly floating strike zone of home plate umpire Mike Estabrook during the ninth inning of what began as a scoreless tie.

Hand walked back-to-back batters – something he rarely does – as Estabrook refused to raise his right arm despite the delivery of several close pitches. After Carlos Asuaje muddled matters further by dropping a throw at first base and loading the bases, Hand’s back was against the wall.

He struck out Carlos Gonzalez, and then threw four more close pitches to rookie pinch-hitter Ryan McMahon. None were called strikes, a run was forced in, and the tie was broken. A frustrated Hand later coughed up a two-run single and despite Manuel Margot’s homer in the bottom of the ninth, another losses was pinned on the Pads, 3-1.

A respite in Houston the following night (in the form of a victory) set the stage for the strangest loss of them all. Again, the Padres found themselves in a scoreless game, this time in the bottom of the 10th. Two outs, runner at second for Houston’s Alex Bregman, who hit the ball straight up in the air 20-feet in front of home plate.

Pitcher Phil Maton had the easiest play on the pop-up but deferred to the unwritten baseball rule that pitchers are not allowed to catch infield flies. That left it to Eric Hosmer to race in from his position deep at first base and save the day. Hosmer ran in….and the ball landed a couple of feet behind him.

Houston had won on a walk-off pop-up. One that never even reached the pitcher’s mound.

The series in Houston ended Sunday with Tyson Ross the victim of two home runs, one hit by the Astros’ heretofore unknown backup catcher Max Stassi. And so it has gone.

Ten days into a strange season, the Padres need to smooth things out. But next up is a three-game trek, starting tonight, into the Rockies.

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