Jake Cronenworth homers, but Padres lose series to Royals

SAN DIEGO — On the eve of the 2023 season, Padres third baseman Manny Machado spoke about new expectations in San Diego and what it all means. The tone had changed, and that was a good thing, he said. A season ago, he even noticed fan boos when the team was underperforming, and you know what? He liked it.

“It means the world to us, as we are expected to go out and perform every day,” Machado said before the season.

After a series like this, it’s clear that those expectations are still there. Boos told this story. It’s also clear that San Diego has yet to meet those expectations. The Padres lost Wednesday’s series finale to the Royals, 4-3, at Petco Park. With the loss they fell to 20-24, fourth in National League West, and their home fans let them know what they thought – as loudly as they have done all season.

“It’s not like we play better to deserve better,” Padres shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. “Were not. This will continue until we start playing better. We have to clean up everything, every aspect of the game.”

Machado – who wore a splint on his left hand after being diagnosed with a small metacarpal fracture – reiterated the same opinion he had before the season.

“I don’t blame them for booing,” Machado said. “We are not playing well at the moment. There is an expectation that we had as the season approached. … Collectively, as a group, we have to go out there and be better.

For nearly 40 minutes after Wednesday’s loss — in which the Padres blocked 12 baserunners, twice charging for bases with fewer than two outs without scoring — the local clubhouse remained closed to the media. Inside, the players held a meeting, the details of which were not later revealed.

But if the exact message remained internal, the bases were not difficult to glean.

“We have to clean up a lot of things,” Bogaerts said. “Once we have done all of this, everything will be fine. But there’s a lot we need to clean up, and it starts with attention to detail.

Bogaerts was quick to add that the struggles are not due to a lack of effort or preparation. Almost all the Padres repeated it. On the contrary, they search too hard to find answers, especially in attack.

Perhaps that’s what led to the team’s terrible start to the season with men in scoring position. The Padres are currently only at .196 with RISP, which is considered an all-time low. No team in recorded history has posted a RISP batting average below .200. On Wednesday, the Padres went 2-for-9, though both of those hits were helped by defensive mistakes by the Royals.

“We’ve got a ton of really good hitters on this team,” said Jake Cronenworth, who hit a solo homer in the fifth inning. “But at the end of the day, you have to get up there and believe that you’re going to make it – and believe that if you hit without anybody and the bases are loaded, the next guy is going to do it. .”

The Padres left the bases loaded in the fourth and sixth innings. They loaded the bases again in the seventh, but Juan Soto was tagged at the plate when Aroldis Chapman’s wild pitch bounced off the backstop and went straight back to catcher Salvador Perez.

After the match, manager Bob Melvin called it “pretty unlucky”, and he’s not wrong. That’s also how things have been going for the Padres lately. The most frustrating aspect, Melvin said, is how often they put themselves in a position to succeed. The Padres tied nine walks on Wednesday and had eight hits — and only managed three runs.

“We just have to fight, somehow break through,” Melvin said. “You would think that at some point, when you have so many opportunities, you take advantage of them.”

Now the Padres face the prospect of being without Machado, though it’s unclear if he’ll need a stint in IL. The team are confident they’ll have enough to weather his temporary absence – and on paper, that is the case. But the recent results are not pretty.

“We just have to find a way to do a better job,” said DH Matt Carpenter. “We just haven’t been able to do that. It’s a bit of a snowball situation happening. You have an opportunity in a game, and guys want it so badly that they get off the stick doing something they wouldn’t otherwise.

And that’s where the boos come in.

“There’s a lot of expectations on us, and we’re not performing right now,” Melvin said. “Our fans come out to support us. They’re hungry for more. I can’t blame them.

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