Jake Cronenworth's walk-off home run pushes Padres past Brewers

Jeff Sanders, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Baseball

SAN DIEGO — First, Manny Machado went deep.

Then Jackson Merrill. Then Fernando Tatis Jr. and finally Jake Cronenworth to make sure the San Diego Padres out-ran an overworked bullpen.

Cronenworth’s 11th homer of the season delivered a walk-off, 7-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers after the Padres coughed up three runs over the final two innings.

Adam Mazur’s exit in the fifth inning was just the start of stressful finish, as only Adrián Morejón’s four outs were relatively easy.

Wandy Peralta had to bail Yuki Matsui out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning and Enyel De Los Santos had to help Peralta out of the eighth after Peralta allowed a run-scoring single.

Then it was Jeremiah Estrada called on for the ninth to work a third day in a row — instead of Robert Suarez working a third day in a row — and he blew a two-run lead with a walk and two hits allowed, including Rhys Hoskins’ game-tying double over left fielder Jose Azocar’s head.

A half-inning later, Cronenworth yanked a middle-middle fastball from Joel Payamps over the wall in right field to make sure the homestand started on the right note.

Machado’s first-inning home run drove in three runs. Merrill added his blast immediately after and Tatis hit his in the fifth inning, an answer to the Brewers’ Willy Adames chasing Mazur with a two-run homer to set up a dicey finish for the Padres’ bullpen.

In addition to hitting his 14th homer of the season, Tatis also singled three times in a four-hit game, tying a career-high. His last single preceded a drive off the bat of Jurickson Profar in the seventh that Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich appeared to have in his sights on only to bail out on the play at the last minute, allowing Tatis to score from first to give the Padres’ bullpen a three-run cushion.

Two first-inning, one-out grounders set the tone for both teams on Thursday.

The Padres, after all, were already down 1-0 with runners on first and second when Hoskins sent a bouncer to the right of Machado at third. He gobbled it up and a threw a short-hopper to second base, where Cronenworth picked it and whirled to first base, where Luis Arraez picked another throw in the dirt to complete an inning-ending double play.

A half-inning later, Cronenworth looked like he’d sent an inning-ending, double-play ball to second baseman Brice Turang with runners on first and second, but Turang booted the ball enough for Cronenworth to beat out the throw to first after Turang flipped to second to get the lead runner.

Three pitches later, Machado lofted an 0-2 fastball on the outside corner over the wall in right, his first opposite-field homer of the season and his first blast since June 3 in Anaheim.

It was also Machado’s first home run on an 0-2 pitch this season.


Merrill followed with a solo shot, also to right field, to continue a power surge that has seen the 21-year-old center fielder mash six homers in his last eight games.

The only other center fielder to do so at Age 21 or younger?

Willie Mays, back in 1951, according to STATS.

“I think he’s had success all year,” Padres manager Mike Shildt said Thursday afternoon. “The power has come into his game more recently. I think that’s a byproduct of getting comfortable, recognizing how pitchers are going to pitch you. Just trying to make sure we’re having good at-bats and now it’s, OK, I’m comfortable with what I’m seeing, now I can pick my spot to drive the ball a little more.”

To that point, Merrill’s .590 slugging percentage this month through Wednesday was 230 points higher than what he ended May with.

“More experience is all I can really say,” Merrill said. “As the season goes on, I expect to get better. Power surges come and go. I’ll stay with what I’m doing right now, be consistent and try to win.

“Just go out there and try to play for the win.”

Likely making his last start with Yu Darvish expected back next week from the injured list, Mazur ran with the early pick-me-up from Machado and Merrill.

At least for a bit.

Mazur stranded a leadoff walk in the second inning with three straight outs. He sat the side down in order in the third inning, side-stepped the walk and single he allowed in the fourth and retired the first two hitters he faced in the fifth.

Then Yelich singled and Adames homered to center and just like that Shildt was headed to the mound to pull Mazur from a 4-3 game, one out shy of qualifying for his first win.

Mazur struck out three and allowed three runs on five hits and three walks in 42/3 innings. He threw 54 of his 87 pitches for strikes.

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