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Padres come back on Rockies again, split crazy series at Coors

Padres come back on Rockies again, split crazy series at Coors
Hunter Renfroe rounds the bases after hitting the first of his two home runs Sunday against the Rockies at Coors Field. Renfroe hit five home runs in the series and leads the Padres with 23 this season. ((Matthew Stockman/Getty Images))

The Padres trailed by three runs as the ninth inning began on a gray Sunday afternoon at the ballpark that breaks spirits and makes men mumble.

"It feels like we've been here a month," Eric Hosmer would say later. "Everything that happened, this was a grind."

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The Padres and Rockies had already scored 88 runs in four days, same as the Dodgers and Phillies did in a May series 90 years ago and no one had since.

Fernando Tatis Jr. came to the plate a home run shy of the cycle and lined out to right field.

Then Hosmer walked and Manny Machado did, too.

Hunter Renfroe, who had homered in the first inning and again in the seventh after doing so three times on Friday, hit a long fly ball that was caught in center field.

It was almost over. But of course it wasn't.

The Padres would for the first time in their history complete a second ninth-inning comeback from from a multi-run deficit in three days to beat the Rockies 14-13 in the finale of a four-game series that had to that point already seen records break and tempers flare and water bubble from the ground and fall from the sky.

"You can't script this series," manager Andy Green said. "Hard-fought, both sides, absolutely exhausted pitching staffs — and a split of, all things."

They earned that most bananas of splits because this happened next:

Wil Myers ripped a single to left field that scored Hosmer. Greg Garcia hit his second triple of the game, into the gargantuan gap between left and center fields, which brought home Machado and Myers to tie the game 13-13.

Rockies closer Wade Davis was done. In came Jon Gray, who started Thursday in the first game of the series.

The Rockies issued intentional walks to Josh Naylor and pinch-hitter Austin Allen to bring up pinch-hitter Matt Strahm, who had been the Padres starting pitcher Thursday and gotten two singles off Gray but on this day was told not to swing unless he got a strike.

He got two of them but never swung.

Strahm — who an inning earlier to get his spikes on and get ready to hit, if necessary, and had announced, ""Get it to me and we'll win." — drew two balls standing so close to the plate it was as if he was hoping one of Gray's 98 mph fastballs would hit him. Gray then pumped one of those fastballs to the outside corner before missing with another to run the count full.

There was no point at which Strahm knew whether the 99 mph fastball Gray threw next was going to be a strike, but he wasn't swinging at the pitch that tailed just below the zone on the inner edge of the plate as Thursday's starting pitcher walked Thursday's starting pitcher to bring in the winning run in Sunday's game.

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"I can't handle his velocity," Strahm said. "So that was it."

As Strahm jogged to first base and Garcia jogged home, the Coors Field crowd that had practically gone hoarse cheering its team's nine runs in the first two innings some four hours earlier gasped a collective boo. Some catcalls derided Rockies manager Bud Black's decision to issue the free passes, but the Padres roundly praised the move.

"Makes a lot of sense," Strahm said. "I am a pitcher."

The walk brought up Tatis for a second time in the inning. And two days after his two hits in the Padres' six-run ninth inning, the rookie made his second out of Sunday's ninth inning on a grounder.

Into the game came closer Kirby Yates, who had been sitting in the bullpen in the second inning when the scoreboard said his team trailed 9-5 and the sixth inning when the Padres trailed 13-8.

"That's the most bizarre series I've ever been part of," Yates said after pitching his second perfect inning to close out his second game of the series and earn his major league-leading 24th save. "I know baseball is different here, but that was unbelievable. It was like beer league softball. Insane. … That's a huge win for us. That's the second time we've come back in the series. That's a win we absolutely needed to have. I'm excited to have been a part of it. I really didn't want to blow that."

And thus finished four games that featured a mile-high miracle, some mud, another slightly lesser mile-high miracle and left the Padres' pitching staff a mess.

That the Padres on Sunday became just the second team since 1920 to win a game in which their starting pitcher allowed nine or more runs before the second inning was over is a dubious distinction.

The team's decision makers were already conferring over what to do about a starter on Tuesday and crossing their fingers that Joey Lucchesi could give them seven innings or so Monday to help a beleaguered bullpen rest.

The teams combined for 92 runs, breaking that mark the Phillies and Dodgers set in 1929. The Padres' 44 runs were their most ever in a series. The 131 hits between the two National League West foes were second most ever.

Among those hits were 15 by Colorado's Charlie Blackmon, most by any player in the modern era in a series of four or fewer games.

Tatis had multiple hits in all four games and was 10-for-15 with seven runs in the set.

The 48 runs the Rockies scored in the series were the most the Padres ever allowed in a four-game set, breaking a 23-year-old high of 40 runs set by the Dodgers in July of 1996.

Yes, it was Coors Field, where the lack of humidity makes gripping balls and challenge at times and the thin air and massive outfield produce an exhausting mix of cheap home runs and cheap base hits.

But even before arriving here, the Padres pitching staff was running out of oxygen.

Starters and relievers have leaked runs at a rate rare for an organization that through all its ugly seasons has generally been able count on its pitching as at least a relative strength.

As the Padres head home to face the Brewers for three games, they packed as some heavy baggage a 4.62 team ERA, the highest it has been at any point this late in a season since 2016. Before that experimental and developmental year, the Padres hadn't had a staff ERA this high this far into a season since 2009.

The youngest rotation in the majors was expected to go through growing pains. Even as they collectively began the season with 3.38 ERA through the season's first 27 games, the Padres cautioned bumps were ahead. Those starters have posted a 4.86 ERA since.

As a whole, a staff that posted a 3.48 ERA and 1.16 WHIP through the season's first 32 games has devolved to 5.55 and 1.35 in the 40 games since.

Coming to Colorado didn't help.

Padres starters in the series allowed 24 runs in 12 1/3 innings.

Strahm lasted just 3 1/3 innings in giving up six runs Thursday. Cal Quantrill was the iron man, yielding four runs in five inning Friday. Eric Lauer allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings Saturday.

A 9-6 loss Thursday was a relatively ho-hum night in a ballpark that yields an average of 13 runs a game this season.

No Padres team and no Rockies opponent had ever come back from six down in the ninth inning until it happened Friday in a game the Padres won 16-12 in 12 innings (and five hours, four minutes).

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Rain delayed the start of Saturday's game by a half-hour, and a 14-8 loss was twice interrupted by Padres being ejected —Machado in the fifth, Green and Strahm in the sixth.

That was a prelude to Sunday.

The first two innings took an hour and 20 minutes, including the 15 minutes spent drying the warning track just beyond first base after a subterranean pipe burst and quickly flooded the area. The teams had scored 14 runs between them.

Three batters and three hits into the third inning, that was 16 runs. The Padres added another to get to 9-8.

Padres starter Nick Margevicius was long gone by then, having been pulled with one out and two on in the second. Luis Perdomo allowed one of those runners to score, and Margevicius was charged with nine runs. Over his past nine starts, which includes two at Coors Field, the rookie has an 8.44 ERA.

With another diving stop by Tatis Jr. ending the inning, Perdomo retired the Rockies in order for the game's first scoreless half-inning in the bottom of the third.

No one scored again until Trevor Story's solo homer in the fifth.

That was just before the announcement that lightning had struck in the area and fans were asked to clear the upper deck and find shelter in concourses.

After Manuel Margot grounded into a double play that ended the top of the sixth, a weather delay commenced. It rained hard for just a few of the 48 minutes the game was halted.

Play resumed at 4:20 local time, and before it was 4:22 the Rockies had added a run off Phil Maton. It was 13-8 at the end of the sixth.

Tatis' lead-off triple, an RBI groundout by Machado and Renfroe's second homer made it 13-10 in the seventh.

Things were just getting started.

At the end, a simple summation:

"The pitching staff threw a lot this weekend and we scored a lot of fricking runs," Machado said. "It was something crazy that a lot of people hadn't seen."

Updates

Jun 16, 2019 7:26 PM

- This story was updated with postgame quotes and further reporting.

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