Nearly one-quarter of the way through the 2023 season, the San Diego Padres and their franchise record $274.8 million competitive balance tax payroll are 19-19 and four games out in the NL West. The Padres dropped Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Minnesota Twins (MIN 5, SD 3), and they have lost four of their last five games to fall to .500.
"We have guys that can perform better," Padres manager Bob Melvin, who was quite animated and displeased, said following Thursday's loss. "We're going to, but it's time to quit just talking about it. It's time to go out there and do it. Another frustrating game for us. Underperforming."
Melvin's frustration is understandable. His team blew three one-run leads Thursday, and Minnesota's game-winning three-run rally in the seventh inning was fueled by a hit batter, a walk, and a possible double play that wasn't turned. Melvin was ejected an inning later for arguing balls and strikes, and it certainly seemed like he was trying to spark his team.
The Padres had a lead in the seventh inning or later three times in their last four losses -- "I don't think there's enough tenacity throughout the course of the game," Melvin added -- and the offense has scored a total of three runs in the seventh inning or later in those four losses. One of those three runs came courtesy of the automatic runner in extra innings as well.
San Diego is not lacking star power, though just about all their marquee players (Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr.) are underperforming to some degree. Granted, those guys are better than most players even when they're unperforming, but it feels like there's more to give there. We haven't seen this offense play up to its potential.
Pitching depth concerns were well known coming into the season. There are some questions at the back of the rotation and in the middle of the bullpen, and with several key relievers unavailable due to their recent workloads Thursday, the highest leverage situation went to rookie Brent Honeywell. He retired only two of the five batters he faced and took the loss.
Melvin and the Padres have an important three-game series with the first place Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium this weekend. The Dodgers took two of three at Petco Park last weekend, though the Padres were one out away from winning Sunday. Mookie Betts hit a game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth inning against Josh Hader, then the Dodgers won in the 10th inning.
On paper, the Padres are better and more talented than they've shown, but Melvin is right. It's time to show it. The "it's still early" excuse no longer applies. San Diego has 124 games remaining and that's plenty of time to right the ship, though the longer it takes, the bigger the deficit they'll have to erase. Melvin minced no words Thursday. His team is falling way short of expectations.
"Just got to fight a little harder," Melvin said. "Expect a little bit more of ourselves -- all of us, myself included. We have not done that to this point. These stretches happen, but it's gone on too long. We got to break through here at some point."