Padres salvage Yankees series thanks to huge boost from unlikely bullpen star

The Padres' unsung hero has been lights out.
San Diego Padres pitcher Jeremiah Estrada
San Diego Padres pitcher Jeremiah Estrada / Orlando Ramirez/GettyImages

Prior to the start of the 2024 season, the San Diego Padres bullpen was certainly a point of concern. After all, the Friars had lost closer Josh Hader, swingman Nick Martinez, and Scott Barlow. Sure, president of baseball operations A.J. Preller was able to land Wandy Peralta and Yuki Matsui, but was that really enough to help stabilize the San Diego relief corps?

To date, the answer has been a resounding, yes! The Friars have leaned on their bullpen of late, and one the Padres underrated relievers has been lights out. Jeremiah Estrada has been one of San Diego's best pitchers this season, and the right-hander's performance on Sunday helped the Padres salvage the weekend series against the New York Yankees.

Padres salvage Yankees series thanks to huge boost from Jeremiah Estrada

During the series finale, Mike Shildt lifted former Yankees pitcher Michael King in the top of the sixth inning after Juan Soto's RBI double put New York on top 1-0. Sensing the game could get out of hand quickly, Shildt turned to Estrada with one out, one on, and Aaron Judge coming up to bat.

Estrada not only dispatched of the former AL MVP on three pitches, but Alex Verdugo went down on strikes as well. Estrada's pressure-packed performance didn't see Soto come around to score, and kept the Friars in the game.

San Diego took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the inning, and Shildt sent Estrada back out to pitch the seventh. The right-handed reliever showed no signs of slowing down and took care of the trio of Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, and Gleyber Torres on 16 pitches. All three Yankees hitters struck out swinging. In fact, the last 10 batters Estrada has faced have all struck out swinging.

On the season, Estrada has been arguably the Padres' best reliever. The 25-year-old is 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA in 11 appearances out of the Friars bullpen. Estrada has recorded a ridiculous 25 punchouts in 15.1 innings of work, and has shown to be Shildt's go-to guy when the chips are down.

Estrada was a waiver claim this past offseason after the Chicago Cubs outrighted him off the roster. Preller and Co. are sure glad Chicago's brass made that mistake, and the Padres are reaping the benefits. Look for Estrada's role with the Friars to expand as he continues to show that he can handle high-leverage situations like the one he dealt with over the weekend against the Yankees.

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