Yu Darvish has been the bullpen’s best friend in his first season with the San Diego Padres.
Although he gave up a 2-0 lead and didn’t factor in the decision, the tall right-hander pitched into the sixth inning Wednesday night, when the Padres beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 to take two of three.
Jake Cronenworth hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the sixth inning and Mark Melancon pitched the ninth for his big league-leading 11th save in 11 chances. Craig Stammen (2-1) got the final out of the sixth for the win in relief of Darvish.
Darvish had gone seven innings in three straight starts and then 6 1/3 innings in his most recent start, when he struck out 12.
“Him being able to go as deep as he has and to work deep into innings, to give us chances to win ballgames, certainly we’ve have had some short starts because of injuries and things like that,” manager Jayce Tingler said. “It’s no secret our bullpen has been outstanding, but they’ve thrown a lot. Being able to have Yu almost reset those a guys a little bit on his starts has been huge.”
Cronenworth’s go-ahead hit came a half inning after Darvish surrendered a two-run lead and was chased with the score tied at 2. Darvish struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings while allowing six hits and one walk.
“From the get-go, from the first inning, I don’t think I was feeling at my best, my body was feeling a little bit heavy,” Darvish said. “I was hoping that I could kind of grind or go through some innings but regardless of how I was feeling, I feel OK to be able to go through five-plus innings tonight.”
Victor Caratini, Darvish’s personal catcher, homered in the third. Caratini opened the sixth by reaching on third baseman Erik Gonzalez’s third error of the night and took third on pinch-hitter Trent Grisham’s double to left off Duane Underwood Jr. (1-1).
After Tommy Pham struck out for the third straight time, Cronenworth singled to right to give the Padres the lead.
“It was awesome,” Cronenworth said. “The inning was set up by Vic getting on there and then Grish with the huge pinch-hit double to put me in that situation. I was more or less trying to hit a sac fly and it happened to fall in there for a base hit.”
Darvish lost his lead in the span of five batters in the sixth. Bryan Reynolds hit a leadoff home run to left, his his third. After Darvish allowed consecutive singles followed by a strikeout, Ka’ai Tom hit a sacrifice fly to tie it. Darvish hit rookie Hunter Owen with a pitch and was lifted for Stammen.
Kevin Newman, who grew up in suburban Poway, hit an inning-ending groundout.
Darvish had struck out the side in the fifth.
Caratini hit a leadoff homer in the third off JT Brubaker, his second. Brubaker allowed three straight Padres to reach with one out in the fifth, with Fernando Tatis Jr. scoring on Wil Myers’ single.
Brubaker allowed two runs and six hits in five innings, struck out seven and walked one.
Padres: Manager Jayce Tingler said RHP Dinelson Lamet and LHP Ryan Weathers were feeling well after their outings in a 2-1 loss Tuesday night. Lamet, who had been on the injured list with right forearm inflammation, started and went two innings and Weathers, who came out of his previous outing with a sore left arm, went three innings. Tingler says the next steps for each pitcher are to be determined.
Pirates: RHP Trevor Cahill (1-3, 7.40 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday in the opener of a three-game series at the Chicago Cubs, who will counter with RHP Zach Davies (1-2, 8.22).
Padres: LHP Blake Snell (1-0, 3.51) is scheduled to start Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at San Francisco, which will counter with RHP Anthony DeSclafani (2-1, 2.00).