MILWAUKEE -- Even before they took the field Saturday night in Milwaukee, the Padres suffered a loss that damaged their already fleeting playoff hopes.
Jake Cronenworth stood at his locker Saturday afternoon, donning a large cast, after landing on the 10-day injured list with a fractured right wrist suffered Friday.
“It sucks,” Cronenworth said before the Padres dropped a 5-4 decision against the Brewers. “I want to be out there with my teammates and playing and help us try to get to the playoffs.”
The Padres dropped to 61-69, tied for a season-high eight games under .500. They are seven games back of the final National League Wild Card spot.
“Every loss feels worse,” said manager Bob Melvin after the latest defeat, in which Juan Soto made it a one-run game with an eighth-inning two-run homer before the Padres came up short.
“We know where we are. We know how many games are left. We know what's in front of us. Every loss feels worse. Today, after being down like that, coming back, we had a pretty good feeling in our dugout. The two guys in the eighth and ninth pitched pretty well. We got the guy in the eighth, couldn't get the guy in the ninth [Brewers closer Devin Williams].”
The loss doubled onto the loss of Cronenworth, who took a 92.9 mph sinker from Andrew Chafin off his wrist in the ninth inning Friday. He had a bad feeling immediately, even before undergoing X-rays.
“I kind of felt like it was broke,” Cronenworth said.
The expectation is Cronenworth will avoid surgery. The Padres did not provide an exact timeline for his return, but he will be in a cast for several weeks and get imaging done after that.
Cronenworth has been one of San Diego’s most durable players this season, playing 127 of a possible 129 games. He has a slash line of .229/.312/.378 but has swung the bat well lately, holding a .288/.331/.441 line over his past 30 games.
Losing Cronenworth’s presence in the lineup, along with his steady defense at first base and overall durability, is a blow for the Padres.
“Jake obviously is one of our core guys,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller said. “He's been swinging the bat really well. But just what he brings to the team every single day, that's going to be hard to replace. … Cast it up and it'll be hopefully a pretty straightforward recovery, and next man up for our team.
“We're going to be ready to keep moving forward.”
With 32 games left in the season, it may not be long before that means beginning to look ahead to 2024. Whether that includes Pedro Avila in the starting rotation, his recent success earned him a look Saturday.
Avila entered the day with a 1.17 ERA in seven big league appearances in 2023. In his second start with San Diego this season, he allowed five runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings. The right-hander faced two over the minimum through four innings before a rough fifth.
Milwaukee scored all five of its runs that inning. An infield single and bunt single kick-started the rally, and a walk to Christian Yelich and double by William Contreras chased Avila. The Brewers also benefited from errors by Luis Campusano (throwing) and Ben Gamel (fielding).
“They had some better at-bats,” Melvin said of the fifth inning. “Obviously, the Contreras one is a ground ball down the line. I think he makes a pretty good pitch, but it's a ground ball down the line and ends up being two runs.
“But up to that point, he’s pitched basically the way he has all year for us. Just got away a little bit in the fifth.”
Avila has impressed the Padres, and perhaps more starting opportunities will be in order down the stretch.
“I’m a player who has to work hard for everything he’s got," Avila said through an interpreter. “I'm just grateful for everything, the opportunities that I’ve had. Things have mostly come out successful this year.
“I'm thankful for Bob for trusting me and just a lot of growth and a lot of extremes from this season.”