Relief struggles continue in loss to Rox
Friars bullpen allows tight game to get out of hand in Colorado
DENVER -- Four pitches after he was summoned from the bullpen Friday, Wil Ledezma was on the move again, this time to the dugout after Padres manager Bud Black, having witnessed another walk, tried another option to get an out, a familiar exercise this season.
"It's kind of a reversal of last year," Black said of the Padres' bullpen woes in 2008. "We have done some things, trying to get the right fit of guys out there. We've moved some guys in and out, trying to get solidarity and consistency, but it hasn't happened."
There's been consistency, only the wrong kind.
In fairness, it wasn't just another woeful performance by the Padres' bullpen that sent them to another loss on Friday, a 6-3 setback vs. the Rockies before a crowd of 33,147 at Coors Field, many of whom waited out a 54-minute rain delay to watch, among other things, Padres pitchers walk eight batters.
But during a three-run seventh inning -- an inning that essentially decided the outcome -- it was the missteps of the bullpen that were too much to overcome, as the Rockies (53-65) took advantage of three walks, a throwing error and a case of miscommunication to keep the inning alive.
A season ago, when the Padres led the Major Leagues in bullpen ERA (3.06), there weren't many nights like Friday, when two walks by Cla Meredith and one by Ledezma helped set up an inning that could have easily ended with very little drama and no runs.
But this is a much-maligned unit that has posted a 4.48 ERA this season with little stability throughout the bullpen, aside from setup man Heath Bell and closer Trevor Hoffman.
In the fateful seventh, following starting pitcher Jake Peavy's (8-8) exit after allowing a season-high five walks over six innings, Meredith walked the first hitter he faced, pinch-hitter Jeff Baker. Baker then advanced to third base when Meredith misfired on a pickoff attempt at first base.
"A leadoff walk is not good there, an errant pickoff throw is not good at any time," Black said.
Meredith struck out Willy Taveras, but allowed an RBI single to Clint Barmes that made it 4-2. Meredith then walked Matt Holliday before giving way to Ledezma, who walked Brad Hawpe on four pitches. Enter Clay Hensley, the third pitcher of the inning.
Hensley did his part, getting Garrett Atkins to hit a fly ball in the gap in right-center field, where center fielder Scott Hairston and right fielder Brian Giles converged. It looked as if Hairston had an angle on the ball, but he pulled off at the last second and the ball landed fair.
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"That was in a little bit of no-man's land," Black said. "And they didn't communicate as early as they should have."
Giles, who hit a solo home run in the eighth inning, shouldered the responsibility on the play that allowed two runs to score for a 6-2 lead, instead of Hensley and his teammates being out of the inning trailing by one run.
"We were both going hard at it, and we looked up at each other at the same time," Giles said. "I should have called him off with the way the ball was slicing [toward right field]. I'll take responsibility for it."
Peavy, who allowed three runs in six innings, struggled with finding any semblance of being comfortable on the mound. It showed in his results, he said.
"I didn't do much pitching today," Peavy said. "I didn't have a good feel for anything. That's a frustrating feeling. I did a lot better after the delay but was not close to being where I wanted to be."
Peavy's counterpart and former teammate, Glendon Rusch, had no such trouble for the Rockies, allowing two runs over six innings. He allowed an RBI triple to Nick Hundley in the fifth inning and then an RBI single to Tadahito Iguchi but nothing else.
Rusch, who was outrighted by the Padres in May, improved to 5-3 by allowing seven hits. He had no ill will for the Padres, who have run through a handful of relievers since his outright.
"I didn't feel like it was anything different than any other start, other than I faced some guys that you shared the locker room with earlier this year," Rusch said. "But other than that, I approached it as I would any other start."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.