Takeaways from the Padres’ 6-2 victory over the Pirates

PITTSBURGH– Clayton Richard threw 7 1/3 innings, Christian Villanueva and Cory Spangenberg both homered, and Travis Jankowski continued his torrid hitting out of the leadoff spot as the Padres beat the Pirates 6-2 on a drizzly night at PNC Park.

San Diego improved to 19-28 while Pittsburgh fell to 26-19.

Takeaways

Clayton goes 7 1/3

Clayton Richard entered his start on Saturday seeking to do something that a Padre had not done in a long while: throw eight innings in three consecutive starts. The last Padre to do that, according to AJ Cassavell, was Brian Lawrence in 2003.

It seemed like Richard was well on his way towards doing just that through the first seven innings, inducing ground ball after ground ball off Pirate bats. He was extremely economical while doing it, too. Through seven, the Padres starter had thrown only 66 pitches.

In the eighth, Richard ran into trouble. After retiring the leadoff hitter, former Padre farmhand David Freese lined a double off the lefty into the left-center field gap. Singles by Jordy Mercer and Elias Diaz followed, ending Richard’s night at 84 pitches.

Craig Stammen came on in relief of Richard and allowed one of Richard’s inherited runs to score, but was able to strand the other.

The final line on Richard: 7 1/3 innings, seven hits, two earned runs, and two strikeouts. He threw 84 pitches, 65 of them for strikes while inducing 12 ground ball outs. He became the first Padre since Drew Pomeranz in 2016 to throw seven innings in three consecutive starts.

“He was great. Just a really good mix of pitches,” manager Andy Green said. “As soon as someone got on base, it seemed like he got a ground ball almost immediately every single inning. They were well-executed pitches.”

Strong first inning

In the top of the first, the Padres pushed across three runs to spot Richard an early lead. After Travis Jankowski grounded out to second to open the ballgame, Eric Hosmer worked a six-pitch walk off Pirates starter Nick Kingham.

Following the walk came a barrage of doubles. Franchy Cordero lined a double down the right field line, advancing Hosmer to third base. Two pitches later, Jose Pirela lined a double down the opposite line to drive in both Hosmer and Cordero.

Christian Villanueva capped off the trifecta with an RBI double, the first of his two extra base hits on the night.

“It was good to see those guys, who have not been the hottest lately, jump out and get us on the board early,” Green stated.

The outburst was a welcome sign for the Padres, who have had their difficulties early in games so far this season. It also gave Clayton Richard a cushion from the get-go, which certainly contributed to his success.

Villanueva breaking out

Christian Villanueva, who struggled through an 0-for-37 stretch earlier this month, seems to be getting his groove back. The third baseman went 2-for-4 with two extra base hits and two RBIs.

Following the first-inning RBI double, the Mexico native ripped a 418-foot home run off Pirates reliever Tyler Glasnow in the top of the eighth for his 11th home run of the season. The ball left the bat at 104 mph.

The home run was Villanueva’s second off of a right-handed pitcher this season, compared to nine off lefties. Entering play, the 26-year-old had a .508 OPS off right-handers compared to a 1.436 OPS against southpaws.

“It was obviously a right-handed pitcher going today, and most of his success this season has been against left handed pitching,” Green said. “He responded really well today.”

Adding on in the 9th

Leading 4-2 heading into the top of the 9th, the Padres were able to scrap across one run– and then a big swing led to another,

Manuel Margot led off the inning with a hard ground ball to shortstop. On a slick and wet infield, Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer was unable to field it cleanly; which allowed Margot to reach first. The 23-year-old then swiped second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Francisco Cervelli. Raffy Lopez followed the error with a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-2.

Pennsylvania native Cory Spangenberg followed Lopez’s sac fly with a 395-foot blast that reached the upper levels of the right field bleachers. It was Spangenberg’s third home run of the season.

Jankowski keeps torturing the Pirates

Travis Jankowski continued to torture the Pirates out of the leadoff spot, going 3-5 and stealing two bases (his 6th and 7th on the season). If his performance at the plate wasn’t enough, the outfielder ended the game with a diving snag to rob David Freese of a base hit.

When asked what has impressed Green the most about Jankowski’s recent play, the skipper summed it up best: “Honestly, everything.”