'I saw guys getting after it': Padres pleased with effort despite loss

May 14th, 2024

SAN DIEGO -- Some might’ve viewed the Padres’ 5-4 loss to the Rockies on Monday night as a letdown, a deflating defeat after an uplifting weekend series win over the rival Dodgers.

Some. But not Mike Shildt.

A quarter of the way into his first season as Padres manager, it’s already clear that Shildt, typically even-keeled, will get fiery in defense of his team after tough losses. So it was again on Monday at Petco Park, after the Padres squandered golden opportunities in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Was this a letdown, in the aftermath of that Dodgers series? Shildt’s response was emphatic:

“Listen, if you want to make some correlation -- I didn’t,” Shildt said. “No, I saw a group of guys going out there -- we happened to get down, they got some hits, got down 5-1, a normal baseball game -- and we fought our [butts] off, competed, stayed focused, got our walks, couldn’t get a big hit when we needed it.

“That’s what I saw. There wasn’t any deflation, for me. I saw guys getting after it.”

There was a clear purpose to Shildt’s defiance. The crux of it was this: His team found itself facing an early four-run deficit. He’d certainly rather they lose this way -- scraping and clawing and coming agonizingly short -- than any alternative.

The Padres couldn’t solve Colorado starter Dakota Hudson in the early innings, and their own starter, Randy Vásquez, was knocked out after he’d allowed four runs in the fourth. But from there, the bullpen held the Rockies in check. San Diego put the tying run on third base in the final three innings, loading the bases in both the eighth and ninth.

“There were a lot of good things that happened,” said rookie center fielder , whose solo homer brought the Padres within a run in the seventh. “There might’ve been a lot of bad, but there were a lot of good things. Our pitchers pitched their [butts] off. We had one bad inning. One bad inning, all it was. … We played hard. That’s all you guys can ask for is for us to come to the field and play hard.”

That’s more or less the point Shildt was trying to make. The Padres, he insisted, didn’t lose because they were feeling some perceived hangover effect after their thrilling weekend series. They lost on Monday, because, well, sometimes baseball happens.

“Listen, typically you earn 11 walks, it puts you in a pretty good position,” Shildt said. “Just couldn’t cash in on the big hit.”

Eight of those 11 walks came after Merrill’s solo homer cut the deficit to one. Stunningly, the Padres wouldn’t score. They put runners on first and second with nobody out in the seventh, before Luis Arraez bounced into a double play and Fernando Tatis Jr. grounded out.

In the eighth, they worked a trio of walks to load the bases before Luis Campusano lined to center.

Then, in the ninth, came the Padres’ best chance of the night. Three walks by Rockies closer Jalen Beeks loaded the bases for Manny Machado with one out. And, sure, Machado has struggled lately. But he’s Manny Machado, and his history is littered with big hits with the bases loaded.

“We’ll take Manny up there every day,” Shildt said. “It just didn’t work out.”

First-pitch swinging, Machado bounced a sharp grounder to Ryan McMahon at third base. The Rockies, playing their infield back, turned a game-ending double play.

“We thought there was a double-play chance with Manny, and I thought that was our best opportunity to win the game -- to play back and, hopefully, Beeks gets a ground ball,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Even though he’s a high fastball pitcher, he has a chance to get a grounder by choking off a swing with a good fastball. And that’s what he did.”

Just like that, the Padres were back to .500 -- a loss to the last-place Rockies dropping them to 22-22 a day after they’d thoroughly dispatched the first-place Dodgers.

In the stands at Petco Park, the disappointment was palpable. In the home clubhouse, Merrill insisted it wasn’t.

“I don’t even think anyone in this room is disappointed right now,” Merrill said. “My mind’s not on the game that just happened. We’re focused on tomorrow now. That game’s behind us. We lost. It’s over with.

“We’re going to come in tomorrow and play the same game we play every day. We’re going to go hard.”