WASHINGTON – The Padres have had their share of punches during the first 50 games of the season. Nothing like a seventh inning on Thursday, though. The Nationals struck out seven straight batters to score five runs, leaving the Friars stunned.
Two innings later, the Padres stared at the prospect of a sixth straight losing streak—and a third in a row to a last-place team. They sat five games under . 500 and were poised for their worst loss of the year. It’s only late May. But could their season have been rocking?
On a team full of superstars with the biggest payroll in franchise history, it’s Smell—a Minor League signing this spring—who has become the Padres’ most reliable hitter of late. Sure enough, Odor rocketed a three-run green with two outs in the ninth, sending San Diego to an impressive 8-6 win at Nationals Park.
Then the major said: “Someone has to start.” “This guy is me. Now we go.”
The Padres are hoping this is the win that got their season headed in the right direction.
“Yeah, it wasn’t the best game,” said Jake Cronworth, whose first song sparked the game-winning rally. “But what we did in the ninth inning, to come back, put a bunch of quality hitting together—it’s something we just need to stick with.”
Cronworth started the ninth with a fierce eight-pitch battle against Nats closer Hunter Harvey. He missed three consecutive double strike performances—one of which was a defensive swing, and nearly knocked out Juan Soto in the in-deck circle.
After the Cronworth single, Soto followed suit. Soto walked his first four boards, but when Harvey caught a spacer, Soto tore him to the right. In his second trip to DC since last summer’s trade, Soto finished the week having reached base in 11 of his 14 plate appearances — including seven hits via a walk. But don’t let his patience fool you.
“I tell myself, ‘Aggressive all the time,’” Soto said. “I take a walk. But at the end of the day, I’m hiking because those playgrounds are balls. I don’t walk because I want to. I want to swing a bat.”
Soto’s single put the men on first and second with no one out, when the Padres continued their recent trend — heck, at this point, it’s not just a trend anymore — of failing to turn in with runners in scoring position. Xander Bogaerts and Matt Carpenter hit, dropping the team to . 182 in RISP situations this season.
Odor has stepped up, given the recent increase in playing time in Mane Machado’s absence. Odor got a 99 mph fastball into the inside half, flipped it over and deposited it into the right field play. In their past 11 games, the Padres have only had three hits with men in the scoring positions hitting multiple runs. The scent has all three.
“It’s a winner,” Soto said.
“It feels good when he’s on the table right now,” said Padres coach Bob Melvin. “He is not afraid of any situation.”
The Padres, of course, still have a lot of question marks to deal with. They didn’t solve their problems at RISP, finishing Thursday’s game 3-for-16 in such situations. The Bulls, who had been dominant lately, dissolved on the 7th.
But those question marks are best met after a win – perhaps their most enthralling victory of their season.
“That’s what good teams do,” Soto said. “We just struggle. Even when we struggle, we have to go out and keep fighting.”
The Padres led 5-1 going into the seventh inning when things started to turn sour. Tim Hill and Nick Martinez combined to allow seven consecutive batters to start the seventh, though Martinez was able to stop the bleeding. The inning ended when catcher Brett Sullivan made an incredible jumper to get Alex Call’s spike after a ball in the dirt had gone wide. The deficit remained the same.
Of course, every Padres deficit has felt tremendous lately, no matter the number. The Padres haven’t overcome a deficit to win a game since May 5. He stranded Brandon Dixon after a leadoff double in the eighth. Looks like they’re about to cut two more lines on the ninth.
But the major — now in italics of .409/.480/.818 since the day after Machado was injured —was strong in his belief that things would change. He made amends in Wednesday’s loss and later said it would only take “one match” to make that change.
After the day put it up.
“I said so,” said the major. “It takes one game to start playing. Let’s see tomorrow.”
“Infuriatingly humble internet trailblazer. Twitter buff. Beer nerd. Bacon scholar. Coffee practitioner.”
Yankees will put Aaron Judge in the EL for 10 days with a toe injury
Eli de la Cruz called up the Reds
Possible business targets for the Phillies should be considered with the tigers in town