PHOENIX, Ariz. — On Thursday night, Manny Machado stood in front of his locker in a completely silent clubhouse and struggled to explain the Padres’ recent struggles. He didn’t know why the team was fighting, but he knew the urgency of the matter with the regular season ending.
A player meeting was held on Friday to get everyone refocused. Players then began pouring into the dugout before games, with more of them coming out to stand together on the field to listen to the national anthem. They are more focused in the midst of their postseason push.
But there is no doubt what has been the biggest change in the last three days:
Juan Soto looks like Juan Soto again.
And he homered as part of his first three-hit game as a Padre on Sunday afternoon at Chase Field, helping San Diego beat Arizona 6-1.
After losing the opener on Thursday, a shutout loss that was one of the lowest points of the season, if not the lowest, the Padres bounced back and won three in a row to take the series in impressive fashion.
San Diego took advantage of losses to Philadelphia and Milwaukee to move up the NL wild-card standings. The Padres are now in second place: a half game ahead of the Phillies (who lost to the Braves) and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Brewers (who lost to the Yankees).
It couldn’t have happened without Soto. When he came to the plate in the fifth inning on Friday, he was mired in a 1-for-31 slump. He hadn’t recorded an extra-base hit since he homered on Aug. 28. The lack of production was a big surprise and he was far from what San Diego expected when he landed the 23-year-old star outfielder in a blockbuster trade with Washington ahead. of the Trade Deadline.
Soto had two hits on Friday, including a two-run double in the eighth inning, before breaking through in a big way on Sunday. He walked in the first, hit a solo homer in the fifth, singled in the eighth and drove in a run with a double in the ninth.
The Dominican didn’t beat the D-backs alone. Machado also went deep, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning off Ryne Nelson, the first runs the right-hander allowed in three career starts. He ensured the rookie from Arizona didn’t have a repeat performance against the Padres after shutting them out for seven innings in his MLB debut on Sept. 5.
It was the third time Machado and Soto homered in the same game as their San Diego teammates.
Meanwhile, the D-backs’ bats were stifled by Yu Darvish, who pitched six scoreless innings and was dominant early on. The right-hander retired the first 13 batters of the game, escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth unscathed and delivered another masterful outing against Arizona.
In five starts against the D-backs this season, Darvish is 4-0 with a 1.97 ERA and 31 strikeouts.
Soto is enjoying it, too, as he hadn’t been in a pennant race since winning the World Series with the Nationals in 2019. Now, he wants to help his new teammates experience that.
And if Soto continues like this, maybe the Padres could play until November.
Info: San Diego Padres.