The San Diego Padres’ path to victory has been very simple in 2022. Get a strong start from their starting pitcher, and get enough offense out of Manny Machado and Juan Soto before holding on with the bullpen.
Over the final two days of a series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, they showed they have more than one way to win.
The Padres came back to Petco Park having lost back-to-back games with the Dodgers before welcoming the red-hot Arizona Diamondbacks to town. Arizona starter Ryne Nelson, making his MLB debut, shut down San Diego in game one. San Diego’s blueprint fell apart, as Machado and Soto combined to go 0-for-8, and the Padres bullpen allowed four runs in three innings. The Padres’ slim lead in the wild card race shrunk to just two games.
They needed to find a way to win, and Tuesday’s game seemed like a great chance. San Diego got to trot out Joe Musgrove to pitch. Arizona’s Josh Rojas homered on the first pitch of the game. Former Padre Sergio Alcantara doubled in another run before the Diamondbacks chased Musgrove from the game with three runs in the fifth. Step one of the blueprint was a failure.
When the Padres’ pitchers struggle, they’ve been dependent on the bats of their superstars to kickstart the offense. As Musgrove left the game, San Diego’s offense had not reached base against Merrill Kelly. The game looked lost.
In the eighth, San Diego had runners on the corners with one out, and coming up to the plate was Juan Soto. Soto appeared to be in the perfect position to put the Padres ahead, and he needed just a fly ball to tie the game. Uncharacteristically, Soto struck out on three pitches. Well, at least the Padres have their other superstar up to the plate. Manny Machado, who has dragged the Padres to the edge of the postseason, looked to add another memorable moment to his wonderful season.
He popped out on his second pitch.
That looked like it would be it. San Diego had squandered their chance. They looked destined for a fourth straight loss.
The Padres’ role players didn’t seem to think it was it. Josh Bell worked a walk to start the ninth. Jake Cronenworth sprinted down the line to keep the Padres out of a double play. They were not ready to give in. However, Ha-Seong Kim flew out, bringing the Padres down to their final out. San Diego had just their 7-8-9 hitters up, with ESPN giving them just a 9.5% chance to win.
Wil Myers singled up the middle, bringing the tying run into scoring position. Jose Azocar, who had just 19 major league at-bats in the previous two months, stepped into the box. Azocar delivered one of the plate appearances of the season, winning a nine-pitch battle. He fell behind 1-2 after three pitches before taking a pair of balls. He fouled off three more fastballs until he finally took ball four to load the bases. Azocar spent six pitches on his and the Padres’ final strike, but he made it work.
One pitch later, Jorge Alfaro laced a 113-mile-per-hour ground ball up the middle, and San Diego had completed the comeback.
It was the kind of victory that can spark something special, but it requires a team to build on it.
The Padres had Yu Darvish ready to start on Wednesday, and there might not be a player that Bob Melvin would prefer to have started. Darvish has been one of the most consistent starters all season, and he seemed to be the perfect man to keep the Padres’ momentum going into a series victory.
Naturally, Daulton Varsho and Corbin Carroll went back to back in the second, immediately putting San Diego behind the eight-ball. The Padres offense, which has struggled all season at home, answered right away.
Jurickson Profar slapped an opposite-field two-run home run, tying the game. Two batters later, Jake Cronenworth homered for the second time in as many days. Just like that, San Diego had re-taken the lead.
The Diamondbacks tied the game again in the fourth when Varsho hit his second home run of the game. The Padres had already lost Juan Soto from the game in the third inning when he was hit by a pitch. Manny Machado continued to be mired in a still ongoing streak of 15 at-bats without a hit. Soto, after leaving the game, was just 2-for-his last 28. The Padres needed another spark from someone who wasn’t their superstar.
Wil Myers, who was replacing an injured Brandon Drury at first base, stepped into the batter’s box in the fourth inning. Myers, who has homered three times in his last ten games, sent his 150th career home run into the right-field seats. It was a vintage swing from Myers, who lived off opposite-field home runs in his peak with the Padres. The 150th homer, which was his 131st as a Padre, gave San Diego the lead again.
They never looked back.
Yu Darvish worked through two more innings to secure yet another quality start. Robert Suarez got his way out of a jam set up by Darvish in the seventh, and Josh Hader locked down his second save in a Padres uniform. Josh Bell and Ha-Seong Kim provided the insurance, making the game much less nervy than it was on Tuesday night.
However, San Diego showed something special. Manny Machado and Juan Soto went 0-for-21 during the series. Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish were not at their best. Despite their entire blueprint falling apart, the Padres won both games, scored six runs in both, and blasted three homers each.
It’s the third time since the All-Star Break that the Padres have scored at least six runs in consecutive games. The Padres are 21st in home runs, and with Machado, Soto, and Drury either injured or failing to produce in the series, they still hit six home runs without any coming from their best three home run hitters.
The Padres showed that their path to winning has multiple routes and that their offense can come from anywhere.
That’s a very important thing for October.