Hader Runs Into Yet Another ‘Obstacle’ In The Ninth

Somehow, despite acquiring one of the era’s most dominant closers earlier this month, the Padres still can’t seem to solve their closer dilemma. On Friday night at Petco Park, Josh Hader was battered for the second consecutive time as the Padres once again lost a close game in the bottom of the ninth. Hader has now allowed the game-tying or game-winning run to score in each of his last three starts. The Nationals scored three times off the struggling left-hander in the Padres’ 6-3 loss at Petco Park.

A day before the Trade Deadline, the Padres made a massive deal to acquire Hader in order to strengthen the latter part of their bullpen. Hader has made five more appearances since then, resulting in six runs allowed across three and third innings. Hader warned, “There is always going to be an obstacle in this game that you are going to have to go over.” That’s one of the things going on right now; obviously, this challenge is hitting a bit harder than most. But that’s the fun of it! You can either give up and surrender, or you can find a solution and proceed.

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Hader doesn’t have much wiggle room to figure things out on the fly for the Padres. They moved one game ahead of Hader’s former team, the Brewers, in the race for the National League’s second wild-card spot. Long term, San Diego hopes to use Hader as a closer for major games in September and, barring any hiccups, into early October. Is there any immediate gain in finding Hader a role other than closer where he can thrive? Manager Bob Melvin stated that he required some time to reflect on that question after his team suffered one of its toughest losses of the season.

“I’m not going to tell you right now,” Melvin stated flatly. We’ll give it all serious thought. We need to have a conversation with everyone concerned.

Hader runs into yet another
Hader runs into yet another

Hader has an impressive resume in the ninth inning, as he has been named to the All-Star team four times and has 125 career saves. A closer of his caliber would naturally express interest in receiving the ball. Hader stated, “Obviously, you’ve got to be in the trenches to advance.” I certainly hope that’s the case, and that I’ll have the chance to participate and advance from within.

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Command-based solutions have been the norm for this problem. Hader’s walk rate with the Padres, previously 8.5%, is currently at 22.7%. He has also hit two batters and thrown two wild pitches. Hader claims that he is “too rotational,” a mechanical flaw that contributes significantly to his lack of command. He readily admits that it must be fixed immediately.

Hader stated, “There is a standard that I hold myself to.” That, by the way, is not a results-based approach. But what really matters is my pitch execution and establishing a dominant mental state. … In the end, I’m not the one carrying out the pitches. When I’m on top of my game, I’m throwing strikes.

RBI Single By Trent Grisham

Hader’s ninth-inning entry on Friday was his second consecutive night of a tied game. He lost on Thursday when two runners he inherited scored. Hader was given a scoreless inning to work with, and he set an ominous tone by walking the Nationals’ No. 9 hitter, Victor Robles. After that, everything went downhill. Hader scurried to make a play on a swinging bunt by Lane Thomas in front of the mound. The Nationals had already taken the lead when Juan Soto recovered the ball in right field and threw it in. On third base, Thomas was in the midst of thought.

Hader admitted, “I didn’t set my feet and throw the ball.” When performing a PFP, it is essential to halt play and physically position yourself near the intended recipient. To be honest, that’s one of the things I skipped out on. The Nationals went up 6-3 after rookie Alex Call hit a Hader fastball that grooved into the first row of the left-center field bleachers. Melvin came out of the dugout’s top step as boos rained down on Hader.

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The Padres’ problems, however, extend far beyond the closed position. The offense has slowed down recently, with Manny Machado being about the only bright spot. In the fifth inning, Machado hit a double off the top of the wall in the opposite field to tie the game. With one out, he moved to third on a wild pitch but couldn’t advance any further.

The Padres went the rest of the game without scoring a run, and the boos from the Petco Park crowd only got louder when Jurickson Profar flew out to end it. Melvin explained that this sort of thing occurs “when you play bad and have a lot of people who are passionate about their team.” Better performance is required of us.