5/21/2014 7:57 P.M. ET
Black tries Alonso in cleanup spot
By Scott Miller / Special to MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- Spinning the lineup like a combination lock, looking for something to key a group that has not produced much, Padres manager Bud Black slotted first baseman Yonder Alonso as the cleanup hitter Wednesday night.
It was only the sixth appearance in the four-hole this season for Alonso, who has one home run this season. That came last Thursday in the second game of a doubleheader at Cincinnati. Before that, Alonso had not homered since last May 19.
"You know, just looking at the middle of our order and trying to get the right combinations in there," manager Bud Black said. "He had a couple of good swings [Tuesday] night. "Until the two, three and four guys start doing their thing and you can make a case for where guys should be in the lineup, really, the only guy you can make a consistent case for has been Smitty [Seth Smith]."
Smith was in the two-hole Wednesday, just his seventh appearance there this season.
Padres lead the Majors in close games
SAN DIEGO -- If every night has seemed like a grind to the Padres, there's a reason: Of San Diego's first 45 games, 30 have been decided by two or fewer runs. No other team in the Majors has played that many two-runs-or-less games.
"I think that in general, ever since I've been here, we've always played close games," first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "I don't know if it's because of our stadium, or we hit the ball good and we're not getting runs in … the games are close. That's the way it is in baseball, and in general in the West."
Said second baseman Jedd Gyorko: "That's definitely how it's been, and I think it will benefit us down the road. Obviously, you'd love to be up five or 10 runs. But when you're swinging the bat not as well as you'd like, there are a lot of close games.
"It's a credit to our pitching, really. We're where we are because of them."
No kidding. Despite an offense that ranks last in the Majors in runs scored, batting average and on-base percentage, the Padres, nevertheless, are 15-15 in games decided by two or fewer runs.
"We could have really buried ourselves early," Gyorko said. "But we've found ways to win games. We've been able to get that one hit late in a game. It's a resilient group of guys. Regardless of what's going on now, we feel like we're on the brink of [coming out of the team-wide slump]."
One colossal challenge in these close games is that one or two mistakes can mean a loss, as happened in Tuesday's series-opening 5-3 loss to the Twins. Two Ian Kennedy wild pitches and Cameron Maybin's failure to get a bunt down in the seventh inning cost the Padres.
Grandal takes responsibility for wild pitches
SAN DIEGO -- Not long after Tuesday's 5-3 loss to the Twins, Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal checked the replay to ascertain the damage. Or rather, he knew what the damage was, but he wanted to see how it could have happened.
Grandal was behind the plate for two Ian Kennedy wild pitches, both curves that Kennedy yanked into the dirt. The first came in the sixth inning with a runner on third, and it allowed Trevor Plouffe to race home and tie the game at 3-3. The second came in the seventh inning and moved Eduardo Escobar to third. He scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly.
"The first one was definitely my fault," Grandal said after viewing the pitches again. "I was late to it. The second one was halfway in the other batter's box [when it bounced]."
Still, Grandal said, as a catcher, you have to think that you can at least block everything.
"You've got to think nothing can get by me," Grandal said. "Especially with a man on third base. "I saw the replays and want to say both pitches [bounced] in front of home plate. They were pretty tough to handle. But as a Major League catcher, you've got to handle those."
Roach to get second start, filling in for Cashner
SAN DIEGO - Rookie Donn Roach will make his second spot start for injured Andrew Cashner on Saturday against the Cubs.
In his first outing on Sunday in Colorado, he surrendered four earned runs in three innings while walking two. The hope is that maybe in his second start, he will be a little more calm.
"He caught a break there with the first two hitters," manager Bud Black said. "He was a little bit erratic with the walks, and Rene [Rivera] picked him up."
Roach walked both Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson to start the game … and Rivera nailed both of them attempting to steal.
"Hopefully strike one," Black said regarding what he wants to see from Roach against the Cubs. "Throwing his fastball for strikes. That didn't happen the other day. Hopefully, we'll see more consistency throwing the ball over the plate, working ahead and not beating himself."
• Black will not be in the dugout for Thursday's series opener against the Cubs. He planned to leave Petco Park in the late innings of Wednesday's series finale with the Twins to catch a flight to see his daughter, Jessie, graduate from the University of Maryland. Bench coach Dave Roberts and pitching coach Darren Balsley will lead the coaching staff in running the games in Black's absence.
• The Padres are eager to see old friend Rick Renteria, their former bench coach and the first-year Cubs manager, when Chicago arrives for a four-game weekend series.
"We've texted," Black said. "We've talked. Just like I talk with Joe [Maddon], Ron [Roenicke] and Mike [Scioscia]."
The latter three worked together on Angels staffs -- Black, Maddon and Roenicke all having served as coaches under manager Scioscia.
• Carlos Quentin, nursing a strained right groin, was not in the lineup again Wednesday and was not expected to be available to pinch-hit. The Padres still hope to avoid placing him on the disabled list for a second time.
Scott Miller is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.