Hunter Renfroe struck out in his first two at-bats, hardly suggesting he might be on tap to play the hero role for a second consecutive day.
One more chance proved otherwise.
Renfroe hit his second late-inning home run in as many days and the San Diego Padres held on for a 3-1 victory Saturday night over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On a night when manager Andy Green used three left-handed bats and a switch-hitter against Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda, it was Renfroe’s right-handed bat that came through anyway. Renfroe broke through in a scoreless pitchers’ duel with a blast in the seventh inning off Maeda, his team-leading 27th of the season. He also hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of a victory over the Dodgers on Friday night.
But he followed his big night with a three-pitch strikeout against Maeda in the second inning, ending the at-bat on a slider. Then came a strikeout on another slider in the fifth. A last two-strike slider in the seventh was one too many as Renfroe delivered.
“You swing at enough sliders, eventually they’ll throw one that you can hit,” Renfroe said with a wink. “I’m just kidding.
“Kenta was good out there tonight. He eventually threw one that I could get a nice barrel to it. The second at-bat, I swung and just missed a two-strike one. I was like, ‘If he throws me that again, I’m not going to miss it.’ I was able to get a barrel to it and stay toward the middle of the field and stay long enough through it to get it.”
Manuel Margot’s two-run homer in the eighth off Maeda made it 3-0. It came on another slider to a right-handed hitter.
“I did have a good feel for my slider overall,” Maeda said through an interpreter. “Those two pitches they hit a home run off it, those were the only two mistakes I made.”
Trey Wingenter (1-1) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the victory, while Kirby Yates pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 29th save of the season and second in two nights.
Maeda (7-5) had given up just one hit until Renfroe got to him with two outs in the seventh.
“Hunter is the kind of guy that failure doesn’t bother him,” Green said. “Struggle doesn’t bother him. Nobody wants to go up there and struggle a couple at-bats, but you still have the confidence that there’s not going to be a carryover effect. As soon as he got that first slider that first at-bat, he was still out front of it. He was still out in front of the second. He finally backed the third one up.”
Maeda gave up three runs and four hits with one walk and six strikeouts in a season-high 7 2/3 innings. The right-hander is 0-3 over his last six starts with a 4.05 ERA and has not won a game since May 31.
“I thought (Maeda) threw the ball well across the board; everything was really good,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He made two mistakes and unfortunately they were homers. But to go deep in the seventh inning, he threw a great baseball game.”
Padres starter Chris Paddack pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings, throwing 96 pitches, just one off his career high. He gave up three hits with one walk and six strikeouts.
The Dodgers appeared poised to break through against Paddack in the fifth inning when Matt Beaty doubled, Chris Taylor walked and Russell Martin singled to load the bases with one out. But Paddack struck out Maeda and got the putout at first base on a groundball by Joc Pederson to first baseman Eric Hosmer.
The Dodgers avoided the shutout with two outs in the eighth inning. Alex Verdugo doubled to right-center field off Craig Stammen and scored when Padres third baseman Manny Machado was charged with a throwing error after a grounder by Justin Turner.
Los Angeles lost consecutive games for the fifth time since April 23, but has not lost three straight in that stretch. It was the first time the Dodgers dropped consecutive games at home since April 12-13 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Padres assured themselves of no worse than a split in the four-game series after losing the previous six matchups against the Dodgers.
Yates’ 29 saves are the most by a Padres pitcher heading into the All-Star break, and he even has one more game to reach 30. Whether he gets it, he will head to Cleveland on Sunday night for Tuesday’s All-Star Game with his head held even higher.
If Yates had a sore spot this season, it was with outings against the Dodgers. His two losses are both against them, but that was long ago now, way back on May 3 and 4. He not only has a pair of saves in consecutive games at Dodger Stadium, Friday night’s save was of the five-out variety, before getting a more traditional three-out save Saturday.
Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr. was hit in the left elbow by a pitch from Maeda in the eighth inning and went to the ground behind home plate, where he was tended to by a Padres trainer. After a brief delay, he remained in the game.
Dodgers: OF A.J. Pollock (right elbow inflammation) and SS Corey Seager (strained left hamstring) both came out of a minor league game Friday with no issues and remain on track to return from the disabled list Friday at Boston in the opening game of the second half. … INF David Freese (strained left hamstring) also remains on track to return Friday with manager Dave Roberts saying the veteran will not need a rehab game.
Padres: LHP Joey Lucchesi (6-4, 3.91) has never defeated the Dodgers in four previous starts. Last Sunday, he gave up two earned runs over 5 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals, and has a 3.38 ERA in 10 starts since the beginning of May.
Dodgers: RHP Ross Stripling (3-2, 3.45) will make his third start since returning to the starting rotation after an injury to LHP Rich Hill. Stripling has a 2.61 ERA against the Padres in 38 career innings.
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