Higashioka’s big day fuels Padres sweep of Nationals in testy series

The Padres swept the Nationals. East Village Times.

Jun 26, 2024; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres catcher Kyle Higashioka (20) hits a grand slam home run against the Washington Nationals during the eighth inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Petco Park- San Diego, CA

The Padres and Nationals squared off one last time at Petco Park after a first two games of the series. It began Monday night with a walk-off hit from Jurickson Profar and the Nationals taking exception to how he celebrated. Things boiled over to the following game, when Profar got into a heated argument with Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz. Benches cleared after Manny Machado got in between them. MacKenzie Gore then beaned Profar with the first pitch after each bench was warned. Machado then homered. Profar later hit a game-sealing grand slam.

Today, some wondered if the two squads would have any further squabbles. However, the Padres squashed that early by taking a 4-0 lead after four innings. Dylan Cease was in total control through seven shutout innings and the Padres eventually earned the win and the sweep, 8-5.

Cease had his ace stuff on Wednesday. Through those seven scoreless innings, he allowed just one hit with two walks and nine strikeouts.

The Nationals countered with rookie DJ Herz. He was chased from the game in the fourth inning.

San Diego got the scoring started in the bottom of the second when Kyle Higashioka, playing everyday now in the absence of Luis Campusano, launched a two-run homer. The Padres added two more in the fourth inning after a wild pitch scored one and Profar singled home another. From there, the team basically hit cruise control.

After Cease’s seven sparkling innings, Yuki Mastui came in and tossed a perfect eighth frame. Still, it felt like the Padres needed an insurance run or two in the bottom of the eighth to feel comfortable.

Boy, did they ever.

After two singles and a walk, the Padres loaded the bases with nobody out. Then, it looked like they were about to squander that golden chance as Jackson Merrill and Eguy Rosario failed to get any runs home. It was up to Higashioka. He launched his second homer of the game, a grand slam, into the left field seats. That made it six RBI for the Padres’ backup catcher in the game, a career high. It also was San Diego’s second straight game with a grand slam. It gave hints of the 2020 Slam Diego run.

That boosted the lead to 8-0. Higashioka needs to be acknowledged for the excellent job he has done. He has been a luxury as a backup catcher now filling in as the starter while Campusano is on the injured list. He now has seven home runs in June, which is twice more than any other catcher in baseball this month. The Padres likely don’t win this game without his heroics.

The ninth inning got a little uncomfortable. The Padres have made an unfortunate habit of letting teams have big rallies in the ninth inning after building a big lead. For the second straight game, the Nationals scored late and got a rally going in the ninth, even down eight runs. Tom Cosgrove got just one out before allowing four earned runs. Mike Shildt had seen enough, turning to Adrian Morejon to get the final two outs. Even he struggled at first, allowing a double for two runs charged to Cosgrove and another run to score. He finally induced the game-ending double play to halt the rally and seal the sweep for Friars. The Padres won 8-5 and have now won six of their last seven.

The Padres now get a well-earned off day on Thursday before an east coast swing starting in Boston on Friday.

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