Led by hard-throwing right-handed starter Walker Buehler, four Dodgers pitchers combined for a historic no-hitter Friday night, the first of its kind outside the United States or Canada, which led to a 4-0 Padres loss at the Estadio de Beisbol. Buehler struck out eight and walked three before Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore completed the 12th combined no-no in history.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Padres, given the festive setting and the opponent — a National League West rival they’ve been chasing in the standings for nearly a decade. More importantly, in the eyes of their skipper, it was another loss in which the strikeout woes persisted and the at-bats weren’t up to par.
“It stings no matter what,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “I really don’t care about the setting or the opponent. I don’t want to get no-hit. I don’t want to get beat. It doesn’t matter to me one bit who it is or where it is.”
Buehler temporarily saw his command slip in the third inning when he issued consecutive walks. In a strange twist of fate, that may have kept his no-hit bid intact. With two men on base, the Dodgers were unable to shift third baseman Kyle Farmer to the right side of the infield against Eric Hosmer.
Sure enough, Hosmer hit a liner directly at Farmer, who snagged it out of mid-air and threw to second for a double play. That liner was undoubtedly the Padres’ best chance against Buehler, who was otherwise flawless.
“Two different breaking balls he was throwing for strikes on both sides of the plate,” said Hosmer. “He was throwing [his fastball] 98-99 mph. It’s tough to give credit to the pitcher sometimes, but he threw a good game, and he had all of his pitches working to both sides of the plate. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap to their guy.”
Los Angeles opened the scoring in the first inning before Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez launched back-to-back homers in the second. Padres starter Joey Lucchesi would settle in for five innings of three-run ball, but he was out-done by Buehler.
A rookie coming off Tommy John surgery, Buehler was removed after six innings and 93 pitches. Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva would lead off the seventh.
Before the game, Villanueva, the lone Mexican-born player on either roster, received a warm ovation from the Monterrery crowd. He had the best chance to put a dent in the no-no against the Dodgers bullpen. Villanueva, who has torched lefties all season, faced two of them. He hit a seventh-inning rocket to left that Alex Verdugo tracked down. Then with one out in the ninth, he popped up to left against Liberatore.
A batter later in the ninth, Franchy Cordero struck out swinging. The Dodgers, with their MLB-record 23rd no-hitter now complete, commenced their celebrations. The Padres, still awaiting their first no-no, retreated from a soggy dugout
“You don’t like losing,” Hosmer said. “It’s not fun, especially being no-hit. … We’ve got to continue to grind, continue to fight. This league is not going to get any easier, and people aren’t going to feel bad for you.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Who’s got it?: The Dodgers grabbed their early lead three batters into the game on what should’ve been a routine fly ball in the infield. With men on the corners and no one out, Matt Kemp skyed a popup just beyond second base. In a hazy dusk sky, second baseman Jose Pirela never picked up the ball, and it dropped between right fielder Matt Szczur and shortstop Freddy Galvis — who also picked it up late.
Drenched: There was little Lucchesi could’ve done to salvage things Friday night. But given the buckets of rain falling, there’s an easy justification for his early struggles. Lucchesi throws a pitch he calls the churve, which he grips deep in his palm like a changeup but spins like a curveball. In the early stages, he simply couldn’t control that pitch. Perhaps that lack of control was what forced him to groove a pair of fastballs to Taylor and Hernandez. Play stopped briefly in the third inning, as the grounds crew worked on the pitcher’s mound under torrential skies.
“That half inning it was borderline dangerous for a little bit,” Green said. “That was very wet turf, and everybody was slipping all over the place. But that wasn’t the issue tonight for us.”
Lucchesi proceeded to allow one baserunner — a Tim Locastro double — from the third inning on.
No team in baseball has more strikeouts than the Padres, and they fanned 13 times on Friday night. If the San Diego offense is going to find a groove, it needs to limit those Ks, and nobody knows that better than Green.
“We’ve punched out way too much,” Green said. “We’re at a point in time with hitters here where your opportunity will pass you by if you don’t make an adjustment and start putting the ball in play. The opportunity will start going to somebody else. We’ll continue to churn if we can’t get the job done.”
But the Padres might simply be built to strike out. Sure, No. 3 prospect Luis Urias could get a big league callup soon. His strikeout rate remains very low. But a handful of youngsters — namely Cordero, Villanueva, Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges — have always whiffed at high rates.
The Padres remain committed to finding out which of those players could become pieces in their future (though Hedges and Renfroe are currently on the DL). Cordero, who walked twice Friday, has seemingly made some strides with his plate discipline.
“There’s a lot of guys who have struck out their entire careers,” Green said. “They show up to the Major Leagues with 30-percent strikeout rates, and you can hide behind the excuse that they’re always going to strikeout or you can make some changes.”
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Friday marked the second time in franchise history that the Padres have been held hitless on a combined effort from their opponent. On Sept. 11, 1991, Kent Mercker, Mark Wohlers and Alejandro Pena combined to lift Atlanta to a no-hitter in a 1-0 Braves victory.
HE SAID IT
“He had a great game. We’ve got to come up with something … We’ve got to find a way. But you’ve got to put it in the past and come out tomorrow and have a good one.” — Szczur, on Buehler
“Hosmer’s ball doesn’t get caught, you’re talking an RBI and a different game. [Buehler] was effective and he threw hard, but I thought we put some good at-bats together. They just caught ’em.” — Padres catcher Raffy Lopez