WASHINGTON — The Padres have hit a lot through the first 50 games of the season. Nothing like the seventh inning on Thursday. The Nationals scored seven times to score five runs, stunning the opposition.
After two innings, the Padres were on the verge of losing their sixth straight and third straight against a last-place team. They are five games under .500 and coming off their worst losing streak of the year. We’re only at the end of May, but could his season be faltering?
On a superstar-laden team with the largest payroll in franchise history, Oder — who arrived at the club this spring on a minor league deal — has emerged as the Padres’ most reliable hitter of late. Sure enough, Odor hit a two-out, three-run home run in the ninth inning that significantly led to San Diego won 8-6 In the National Park.
“Somebody has to start,” Scent said later. “That boy is me. Now we’re going to start.”
The Padres can hope this is a win that sets their season in the right direction.
“Yeah, it wasn’t a great game,” said Jake Cronenworth, whose single started the rally. “But what we did in the ninth inning, to come back and put some good at-bats together, that’s something we had to keep.”
Cronenworth started the ninth in a ferocious eight-pitch battle against Nationals closer Hunter Harvey. He fouled off three consecutive pitches on two strikes, one of which was with a defensive swing, and the ball almost hit Juan Jose Soto in the on-deck circle.
After Cronenworth’s single, Soto did the same. Soto drew a walk in each of his first four plate appearances, but when Harvey hung a splitter on him, Soto hit him to right. Soto, making his second trip to Washington since last summer’s trade, finished the week reaching base in 11 of 14 plate appearances, including seven walks. But don’t be fooled by his patience.
“I tell myself: ‘Aggressive all the time,'” Soto recounted. “I take walks. But at the end of the day, I walk because they’re pitches. I don’t walk because I want to. I want to hit.”
Soto’s single put men on first and second with no outs. Xander Bogaerts and Matt Carpenter are out, leaving the team in scoring position with a .182 average this season.
Then it was Odor’s turn, who played more time in Manny Machado’s absence. The left-handed slugger delivered a 99-mph hit on the inside half of the plate to the right-field bullpen. In their last 11 games, the Padres have three wins with runners in scoring position after driving in more than one run. All three were written by Odor.
“He’s a winner,” Soto said.
“You feel better when he’s at bat now,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. He is not afraid of any situation.
The Padres, of course, still have a lot of questions to answer. They weren’t very good at producing with people in circulation, finishing Thursday’s game 16-3 in those situations. His bull run, which had been dominant of late, fell to seventh.
But it is better to face those questions after success. 2023 may be his most spectacular victory yet.
“That’s what good teams do,” Soto said. “We continue to fight. Even if things go wrong, we have to go out there and fight.”
The Padres were leading 5-1 when things got out of hand in the seventh inning. Between Tim Hill and Nick Martinez they allowed seven straight hits to start the inning, though Martinez was able to shut down the Nationals. The act ended when Alex Cal jumped to make contact with the shoe as catcher Brett Sullivan missed a ground ball. The deficit was still one run.
Of course, lately, any deficit has loomed large for the Padres. San Diego hasn’t overcome a deficit in a game since May 5. In the eighth inning, they struck out Brandon Dixon, who led off the inning with a double. They looked like they were going to strand the other two runners in the ninth.
But Odor — who is now hitting .409/.480/.818 since the day Machado was injured — hasn’t lost hope that things will turn around. He fell foul of Wednesday’s loss and later said it only took “one game” to start turning it around.
The next day, he insisted on it.
“I told you,” said the scent. “One game is enough to start corporatizing. We will see tomorrow.”