09/23/07 9:30 PM ET
Padres lose game and Bradley
Maddux's struggles mean Wild Card lead stays at a half-game
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
And wild certainly would be a good way to describe what happened in the team's final regular-season game at home.
First and foremost, the Padres dropped their third game in as many days to the Rockies, this time a 7-3 loss before a crowd of 34,984, which saw a series of rare -- and strange -- occurrences packed into a tidy, two-hour, 50-minute package.
"Collectively, we're not pitching as well as we need to, and not scoring runs like we need to," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Defensively, we're hanging in there. We've got to get all three aspects of the game together this trip."
It wasn't so much ground in the postseason chase that the Padres lost on Sunday, as they remained 2 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona in the National League West and a scant half-game ahead of the Phillies in the Wild Card standings.
What the Padres (85-70) likely lost was outfielder Milton Bradley, who injured his right knee as he was separated from a confrontation with first-base umpire Mike Winters after a heated argument led to Bradley's ejection in the eighth inning.
Bradley needed the help of two teammates to get off the field and may have suffered an extensive injury to his knee. That incident happened an inning after Bradley stepped on teammate Mike Cameron's right thumb and index finger. Cameron also left the game, though he could play Monday.
Bradley and Cameron remained behind in San Diego late Sunday, though both will join the team Monday in San Francisco, where there might be a more definitive word on their status for the final week of the regular season.
Black was ejected later in the eighth inning for arguing a check-swing. Then, if you toss in nearly four ineffective innings by starter Greg Maddux (13-11), who allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings, then the day certainly felt lost.
"We ran into a very hot Colorado Rockies team after playing really well. Obviously you don't want to give up three [games] but we did win every game at home prior to that," San Diego infielder Morgan Ensberg said. "We're still close, and we still have an opportunity to get into the playoffs and we're still kind of the team to beat there."
Just not by as much as they would like to be heading into a seven-game stretch during which the Padres will play three games in San Francisco and then four games in Milwaukee to end the regular season. They certainly hope that's not their last game -- period.
"Obviously, the goal is to win every game from here on out. We control our own destiny, that's the biggest thing. We're still in first, still up by half a game. Just don't lose," Padres second baseman Marcus Giles said.
A half-inning after Bradley's home run to center field off Rockies starter Jeff Francis (17-8) tied the score at 1-1, Maddux yielded four runs in the fourth inning, as the Rockies (84-72) had four consecutive hits to open the inning.
This was Maddux's first start since he tweaked his lower back in a start Tuesday against the Giants. Maddux had an MRI the next day that showed no structural damage, although he certainly didn't look like himself Sunday.
"Greg was a little sore. I think the back had a little bit of an effect on him today. I'm sure he won't tell you there," Black said. "I think he was a little higher in the strike zone than what Greg normally is."
The Padres couldn't do much with Francis, who helped the Rockies climb to within 1 1/2 games of San Diego in the Wild Card race. Francis, who was 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA this season against the Padres, allowed two runs over eight innings with eight strikeouts.
Aside from the solo home run to Bradley, Francis allowed three doubles to rookie Kevin Kouzmanoff, who is now hitting a team-leading .275 among regulars who have been with the team all season.
Bradley is hitting .312 in 44 games with the Padres and had a hit in his final at-bat before he was ejected after a heated conversation with Winters. The brouhaha had its origins in a strikeout in the fifth inning, when Bradley, as plate umpire Brian Runge told the Associated Press, "[He] flipped the bat right in front of me, about 5-to-10 feet in front of me."
While standing at first base after his single in the eighth inning, Bradley and Winters were engaged in what appeared to be a fairly tame conversation about the bat-flipping incident until Bradley suddenly became enraged and had to be separated by coach Bobby Meacham and, later Black. Black tried to push Bradley away from Winters, which resulted in Bradley tumbling to the grass, where he clutched his right knee.
Meacham said after the game that Bradley did nothing to warrant the ejection or, in his opinion, the tone and the choice of words that Winters reportedly used.
"In 26 years of baseball, I couldn't believe my ears the way that he spoke to Milton was so disrespectful, so angry, so vindictive," Meacham said. "It was weird. The boiling point is when he called Milton a name. Milton did not saying anything to him to get him to do that."
Bradley said there was no reason why his conversation with Winters needed to escalate to the point where the outfielder was ejected and then subsequently injured.
"All I do is try go out there and play baseball hard. I've done everything in my power to do things the right way," Bradley said. "That guy, Mike Winters, no reason for it. You don't ride people. He kept talking to me, he wouldn't stop. Meach was standing right there. It's terrible, and now because of him my knee's hurt. If he costs me my season because of that he needs to be reprimanded. I'm going to take some action."
In the meantime, the Padres are faced with playing the final seven games of the season without Bradley -- who was playing in just his third game after missing 12 consecutive games with a strained oblique muscle.
"The boys are trying hard. We're in a great pennant race. Every game is important. We're excited about it. We're going out and trying to win ballgames," Black said. "When guys are passionate about their play, sometimes you see arguments, you see passion showed on the field."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.