Padres offense continues to struggle in loss to Twins

Kennedy yields four runs, remains winless at Petco Park this season

SAN DIEGO -- Small steps. That's where the Padres are at now. Finish a six-game trip 3-3. Come home just three games under .500. Push a little harder, reach .500, maybe pass .500.

Manager Bud Black was talking about that in the dugout Tuesday afternoon. Hitting, he said. We've got to find ways to score. A few hours later, the slow march sideways continued as the Padres struggled to score again and dropped the homestand opener, 5-3, to the Twins in front of 19,136.

Like with most things this year for San Diego, nothing comes easy. In fact, former Padre Kevin Correia retired the first 12 Padres in a row, after entering the game 1-5 with a 6.80 ERA.

"Obviously, the first four innings didn't go the way we hoped," Padres third baseman Chase Headley said of his old teammate. "We put a nice fifth together to take control of the game."

And then they lost control just as quickly.

"It wasn't the cleanest game for us," Headley said. "It felt like a game we should have won. At least, I felt that way."

These Padres, who still rank last in the Majors in runs scored, batting average and on-base percentage, can make an opposing starter look pretty darned good on just about any night of the week. But they also can strike when you least expect it. They rolled for a fleeting instant against a Minnesota team visiting Petco Park for the first time since 2008.

Trailing 2-0 starting the fifth, Headley cracked a leadoff double to snap Correia's four innings of perfection. Will Venable and Jedd Gyorko promptly followed with singles, and when pitcher Ian Kennedy slapped a two-out single following Yasmani Grandal's sacrifice fly, the Padres had found some ways to score and led 3-2.

But Kennedy's quirky trouble at home continued. Going into the game, he was 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA on the road, and 0-4 with a 4.20 ERA in Petco Park. Talk about pitching backwards. Most starters find the big dimensions of Petco to their liking.

So, staked to a 3-2 lead in the fifth, Kennedy started the sixth by surrendering a leadoff double to Trevor Plouffe. Then, with two out, he yanked a curve to Jason Kubel into the dirt that got past Grandal. Plouffe scored the tying run on the wild pitch.

"The first pitch to Kubel was a curve down and in," Kennedy said. "That's the pitch we were trying to get, but it hopped up and got away.

"All of that momentum, you strike out the guy before him [Kurt Suzuki] … it really stinks to be in that situation."

Before departing in the seventh, Kennedy wandered into one more bit of trouble. He walked Eduardo Escobar to start the inning. Next, Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks dropped a bunt that Headley made an excellent play on. Then first baseman Yonder Alonso made an even more impressive play by reaching up and snatching the wide throw just before it hit Hicks in the helmet. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire challenged the play, but the call was confirmed.

However, with Josmil Pinto batting for Correia, Kennedy threw his second wild pitch of the game -- another curve -- and Escobar raced to third. He then scored when Pinto launched a sac fly to right field to give the Twins a 4-3 lead.

"When you try to throw breaking balls down, at times, when you're a little too aggressive, there's a chance you will bounce them," said Black, who thought Kennedy pitched a little better than his results. "That's the frustrating part. You can have such good spin and break, but if you finish too much, the catcher has to do a hell of a job to stop it."

Kennedy wound up yielding four runs in 6 2/3 innings which, as Black pointed out, might not be optimal, but often times a team can surrender four runs and still win.

Not so, too often, with these Padres.

Not that they didn't have their chances.

With one on and one out in the bottom of the sixth, Seth Smith stole his first bag of the season as Headley swung through strike three on a full count. But Smith was stranded at second.

It was a seven-pitch at-bat, and Headley pulled the sixth pitch, a Correia changeup, foul.

"Usually, there's one pitch per at-bat that you should end the at-bat on," Headley said. "That's the one I wish I could have done it on. It was an OK swing, I was just a touch out front."

With two on and none out in the seventh, pulling levers while trying to make things happen, Black sent Cameron Maybin to the plate to hit for Grandal. But Maybin could not deliver on consecutive bunt attempts with runners at first and second, and popped up to shallow center.

"He's one of our better bunters, and Yas has been struggling a bit," Black said. "Our decision was to try and move the runners up."

With the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first it made sense.

"I think I was a little overconfident, man," Maybin said. "I think I have to stick my nose more into it. Not getting that down really bothers me. I take pride in being one of our better bunters. And that was not acceptable."

In the end, Maybin thought maybe he was trying to be too perfect.

"Every little thing counts," he said. "Every pitch. Every out.

"I'm really, really disappointed in that."

Next, Black sent Nick Hundley to hit for Kennedy, but Hundley fouled out down the third-base line. The runners stayed at first and second, and the score stayed 4-3, Twins. Until Suzuki connected for the Twins' first inside-the-park homer in the eighth since Joe Mauer did it in 2007, which made it 5-3.

And the Padres, still with the small steps, will look for more ways to score Wednesday.

Scott Miller is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.