'Winners find solutions': Cronenworth (5-for-5) leads SD after Tatis, Profar exit

June 22nd, 2024

SAN DIEGO -- Half an inning after he took a 93 mph fastball off his left arm, was back out in right field, chasing after Willy Adames’ fly ball down the line. Favoring the sore right quad he’s been playing on for weeks, Tatis couldn’t quite make the play, and the ball kicked into the stands for a double. An inning later, he exited with a left triceps contusion, the team said.

One All-Star-caliber outfielder on the sideline.

In the bottom of the seventh, sparked the decisive rally in the Padres’ 9-5 victory over the Brewers at Petco Park. He shot an opposite-field double to right, then half-jogged, half-limped into second base, clearly still dealing with the patellar tendinitis in his left knee, which has bothered him for most of the season. He was pulled for a pinch-runner.

Another All-Star-caliber outfielder on the sideline.

In the end, the Padres found a way. went 5-for-5 with a homer, Manny Machado tacked on four hits, and Luis Arraez launched his second home run of the season.

“We say it internally,” said manager Mike Shildt. “Winners find solutions.”

The Padres have won three straight, an admirable response to their recent five-game losing streak. With Saturday set to mark the official halfway point of their season, San Diego sits 40-40.

And therein lies the Padres’ precarious plight. Clearly, they’re beaten up. They’re also a .500 team in the midst of a topsy-turvy National League Wild Card race that features nine teams potentially vying for the final two places. They need their best players in the lineup as often as possible.

Afterward, Shildt noted that neither injury appeared too serious. Tatis was unavailable for comment while receiving treatment. Profar spoke briefly and noted that he felt OK. He anticipates a day off on Saturday, but expects to return Sunday.

Profar and Tatis have been the Padres’ two best hitters this season. They rank first and second among NL outfielders in wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs.

They’re also playing hurt, which presents a conundrum: Profar and Tatis could probably use some rest. But can the Padres afford to rest them?

“It’s just a constant balancing act, with our medical team and with them,” Shildt said. “It’s an awareness of what’s going on and communication of what’s going on. Both of them are very convicted about being able to play.”

They aren’t the only ones dealing with injuries. Catcher Luis Campusano was scratched with a bruised left thumb on Friday. Machado recently played through a right hip flexor strain. In the rotation, Joe Musgrove remains sidelined with right elbow inflammation, while Yu Darvish (left groin strain) is expected to return from his second stint on the IL early next week.

Through it all, the Padres have managed. As they’re quick to point out, they aren’t the only ballclub beset by injuries. Twenty-nine other teams are trying to strike that delicate balance between their long-term goals and their short-term bumps and bruises.

“We’ve got some talented guys that are hurting,” said right-hander Dylan Cease. “But I think every team goes through that. We’re not going to hold our heads down or anything. We’re going to keep showing up and doing our best.”

Cease’s outing on Friday was an odd one. He struck out 10 Brewers, but with his pitch count at 106, he was removed after just 4 2/3 innings. That makes him one of only two starters in the Majors this year -- alongside former White Sox teammate Garrett Crochet -- to strike out 10 hitters without making it through the fifth.

After the newly recalled Tom Cosgrove cleaned up Cease’s mess in the fifth, the Padres trailed by three. They stormed back, scoring twice on Arraez’s homer in the bottom of the inning, then tying the game on Cronenworth’s blast.

With hits in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, Cronenworth set a career high and became the first Padres second baseman with a five-hit night since Alexi Amarista did so in 2012. He’s the first Padres second baseman ever to do so while recording a home run as one of those hits.

After the Padres grabbed a sixth-inning lead, the Brewers briefly tied the game in the seventh, before Profar’s double sparked the game-winning rally -- even if he wouldn’t remain on the field to see it.

“It’s what we’ve done all year,” Cronenworth said. “Incredible job. They jump out to that 4-1 lead, and it seemed like we just kept having good at-bats.”