Padres fall short of executing 'out after error' mindset

April 24th, 2024

DENVER -- Earl Weaver’s “big bang” theory of baseball’s big inning went the Rockies’ way on Tuesday at Coors Field, when Colorado scored more runs in a five-run fourth frame than the Padres scored all night. The Padres came into the inning with a three-run lead and left trailing by one in a game they ended up losing 7-4.

The fourth inning started with an Elehuris Montero single to left and Nolan Jones reaching base on an error by first baseman Jake Cronenworth. Brenton Doyle singled to load the bases and Brendan Rodgers followed with a slam deep into the seats in left to give the Rockies a lead they would never relinquish. It was the first grand slam has allowed in his career.

The grounder to first should have been at least one out, and potentially a rally-killing double play, but instead it gave the Rockies new life in an inning that saw them send 11 men to the plate.

“If you give them extra opportunities, you create more opportunities for runs,” manager Mike Shildt said of the misplay that extended a costly trend of errors coming back to haunt the Friars. “We're in that situation where it seems like the moment we make a miscue, some damage takes place. That's not the norm. They're men, not machines. It happens.”

Cronenworth was ready to wash the big inning off and start fresh Wednesday with the series tied at a game each.

“It’s just baseball,” Cronenworth said. “Sometimes you get out of the inning, sometimes you don’t.”

King had a 1-2-3 first, then opened the second with a walk, a double and a run-scoring single, but he was otherwise effective through the first three innings before matching his season high with four earned runs allowed. He was removed after 3 2/3 innings, his shortest start since Aug. 24, 2023.

“He was throwing the ball well, good pitch count, crisp first three innings,” Shildt said of the right-hander’s second consecutive losing decision. “He had some balls that fell in, and the play we didn't make, and we weren’t able to overcome it.”

King faulted himself for not doing a better job of learning from Dylan Cease’s example in the series opener on Monday. When Cease saw his pitches reacting differently than normal, he adjusted his starting position and the target he aimed at to get the desired effect. King, on the other hand, showed a tendency to move away from his slider when he found himself leaving it arm-side, rather than working to make the adjustment.

“Obviously, walks aren't good,” said King, who issued three free passes. “Then, I got kind of greedy. I felt like they'd made pretty good adjustments. I got away from the sinker-sweeper and was throwing a lot of four-seamers and executing it early in the count. They made the mid-at-bat adjustment, and I should have gone to other pitches to get them off it, and I got burned on it.”

The Rodgers at-bat was a perfect example of King feeling like he went back to the well too often, betting his early success in the count against the Rockies’ ability to turn familiarity to their advantage.

“Early in the count, I felt like I was getting the swing-and-miss foul balls, soft contact,” King said. “And then when I got late in the count, I went to the exact same pitch, and so instead of mixing it up, I threw the same pitch, and that was the Rodgers at-bat. That was a few at-bats.”

The Padres’ team fielding has been a notch below middle of the pack -- they entered the day tied for the 18th-best fielding percentage (.983) and tied for the ninth-most errors (15) -- but the errors seem to come at a higher cost, too often resulting in unearned runs scored against them. But they continue to take it in stride, with King taking responsibility for righting the ship, rather than casting blame.

“I actually had a college [pitching] coach that preached ‘out after error,’” King explained. “It's basically picking up your teammates, and unfortunately, I didn't do that. Errors happen. Nobody's going to be mad at anybody for making an error. Nobody’s going to be mad at me on the team for giving up a home run. It's the same thing. You got to pick up your team, and unfortunately, I didn't do that today.”

The loss ended the Padres’ six-game winning streak over the Rockies and leaves the four-game set knotted at a game each.