WASHINGTON: The Padres hung in against the Washington Nationals on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) because of two major leaguers that weren’t in the majors only weeks ago. Ryan Schimpf, a 28-year-old rookie, crushed a baseball. Edwin Jackson, a well-traveled veteran, threw his second quality start in as many outings for the Padres.
Even if San Diego’s season effectively was over by May, there is something to be said for handling 162 games with some level of aplomb. Diving headlong into a rebuild, the Padres have managed to simultaneously tread water. The leaks, however, have been difficult to conceal.
In the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitter Stephen Drew drilled a triple to right-center, and the Nationals spilled out of their dugout to celebrate a 3-2, walk-off victory. Padres reliever Kevin Quackenbush had served up an ill-fated, 1-2 curveball.
After two horrid months, the Padres went 13-13 in June and are 9-10 in July.
Washington’s Max Scherzer dominated for six of his seven innings, striking out nine batters and not allowing a run. That was not a surprise. The right-hander, who signed a $210 million contract two winters ago, makes a living on baffling big-league hitters, as he did in a 20-strikeout masterpiece in May.
The Padres seized a rare opening in the top of the second. Yangervis Solarte, a switch-hitter, led off with a single from the left side. Scherzer struck out Melvin Upton Jr. with a slider. He then fell behind, 2-and-0, to Schimpf.
Scherzer grooved a 95 mph fastball. The left-handed-hitting Schimpf made resounding contact, ripping a two-run homer off the facing of the upper deck in left.
While the crowd at Nationals Park sat in stunned silence, Schimpf made what has become a routine trot the last few weeks. The home run was his eighth of July. He’d become just the second Padres rookie ever to hit eight in a calendar month, joining Jedd Gyorko, who accomplished the feat in August 2013.
The compact infielder’s power, apparently, is quite real. Of Schimpf’s first 20 hits to start his major league career, 16 have gone for extra bases. His debut at this level, evidently, was long overdue.
Schimpf’s blast augmented a broader perspective. The Padres had homered in 21 consecutive games, extending their franchise record. The streak is the second-longest in the majors this season, behind a 22-game stretch by the Boston Red Sox. San Diego is the first National League to homer in 21 straight games since the 2006 Atlanta Braves homered in 23 straight.
Thus, Scherzer was saddled with one poor inning. He went seven in all, finishing with 10 strikeouts, four hits and no walks allowed.
Jackson nearly dueled him to a draw, the scoreboard confirming as much. The 34-year-old had signed a minor league deal with the Padres barely a month earlier, making them his 11th organization. The reasoning was clear: San Diego offered a chance to start, something Jackson had not done much of since 2014.
Last weekend, Jackson made a strong, and unlikely, impression in his Padres debut. He no-hit the San Francisco Giants into the seventh and, despite a three-run homer in that inning, beat All-Star pitcher Johnny Cueto.
Saturday, the right-hander did not mount a repeat no-no bid. He settled, instead, for mostly keeping the Nationals off balance. Washington had at least one baserunner in each of Jackson’s six innings, but mustered only two runs — one in the third, and a game-tying score in the fifth.
Jackson wound up scattering six hits and three walks. He struck out only one, though he showed improved command from his previous appearance, which was wildly effective.