SEATTLE — Twenty minutes after the Padres’ 6-1 loss in Seattle on Wednesday night, the doors to the visitors’ clubhouse at T-Mobile Park remained shuttered. The most telling part about San Diego’s 2023 season: It wasn’t exactly a new development.
The Padres’ season had reached yet another crossroads. So the Padres held another players meeting. They sit five games below .500 after the loss, 4 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, incapable of finding ways to win close games late. On this night, it was Cal Raleigh’s go-ahead two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning that sent things spiraling.
In the immediate aftermath, they met to talk through whatever needed to be talked through. Not for the first time. And, yes, they know talk is cheap. But sometimes it’s also necessary.
“Whenever you talk amongst each other is when you figure things out,” Machado said. “Ultimately, it’s all up to us. There’s 26 guys that are in here we believe in. It’ll take all 26 of us to get to where we want to get to. Everyone in here has confidence in each other, we’ve been pulling the same rope. We’ve just got to play better baseball.”
That much is abundantly clear. The Padres have now dropped four straight games since they clawed within one win of the .500 mark. On Friday, when they open a three-game series in Arizona, it will mark three months since they’d last stood at an even .500.
“It’s never too late, man,” said Xander Bogaerts. “We’ve all been preaching that we’re going to get on a run, and we haven’t so far. All of the guys in this room still deeply believe that it’s going to happen.
“Sometimes you just need a reset button. We get close to that .500 mark and [stuff] goes the other way. It’s rolling in that great direction, and then just as soon as you get one game from .500 it just goes.”
The Padres have made a habit of losing in excruciating fashion this season. They remain 0-10 in extra innings and 6-18 in one-run games. Wednesday night was neither of those. But the result still hung in the balance late, with the game tied, 1-1, in the eighth inning.
Yu Darvish was sharp and efficient across six-plus innings, in which he allowed only one run. But rookie Emerson Hancock matched Darvish, shutting down the Padres offense as he allowed only two hits across five innings.
“Unacceptable,” Machado said. “He threw the ball well, you can’t knock that. We just couldn’t get that big hit.”
The Padres have spent their entire season searching for that big hit, that momentum-changing late-game swing. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Raleigh delivered it for Seattle.
Steven Wilson hung a 3-2 sweeper, and Raleigh sent it a Statcast-projected 450 feet, off the facing of the upper deck in right field. Wilson has pitched in high leverage situations all season. This marked the first time since April that he’d relinquished either a tie or a lead.
“They got that big hit,” Machado said. “We’ve got one of our best relievers in the game, he’s been lights out all year. He made one pitch, one mistake, and the guy hit a homer.”
Wilson was quick to point out that he’d made two mistakes on the night. After Raleigh’s home run, Wilson hit Teoscar Hernández in the helmet with an 0-2 fastball. Immediately, he put both hands on his head in dismay, as he incurred the wrath of the fans at T-Mobile Park.
Hernández was OK, and the Mariners found no fault with Wilson’s actions. Still, Wilson was visibly shaken up after the game.
“It was just supposed to be a fastball up,” Wilson said. “I had him 0-2 with two sweepers before that. It just got away from me. You never want to hit a guy there. I’ll be honest, I was hesitant throwing a fastball after that.”
The Mariners poured it on from there, and when their five-run eighth-inning rally was done, the Padres found themselves in an all too familiar position, meeting in their clubhouse after another crushing loss pushed their season to the brink.
“We’ve just got to play as a team,” said Juan Soto. “We’ve got to go out there and grind.”
Which begs the question: If that’s what they should be doing… are they doing it now?
“It’s been really inconsistent,” Soto said. “Some days we do, some days we don’t. We got to do it every day. Days like this, series like this, we just give up. Like literally, we just give up instead of keep grinding, keep pushing. We’ve got to forget about yesterday and keep moving.”