Juan Soto Homer lifts Padres to defeat Braves MLBcom

Juan Soto Homer lifts Padres to defeat Braves – MLB.com

SAN DIEGO — The 2023 Padres were built into a very good team without Fernando Tatis Jr., completed by his arrival after 20 games.

For much of the first three weeks of the season, they didn’t exactly look like it. But on Wednesday they certainly did.

With their 1-0 win over Atlanta at Petco Park, the Padres advanced to 9-11 in the season before welcoming Tatis back to Arizona on Thursday. They got seven scoreless innings from right-hander Nick Martinez. They got excellent glove work across the board – especially from Manny Machado. And Juan Soto provided the bang — his 431-foot blast into right midfield in the fourth inning proved crucial.

“Losses stink – no matter if [Tatis] come back or not, it’s always bad,” Soto said. “We just have to get it going. We have a great team. We are beyond excited to get him back.”

Tatis is scheduled to return from his PED suspension on Thursday, giving a much-needed boost to a team that’s been slow to start offensively. But the Padres have insisted Tatis’ arrival should not be seen as a panacea for their early-season struggles.

This is a team that reached the National League Championship Series last season without Tatis. They’ve added Xander Bogaerts and a handful of other very useful pieces during the off-season.

There are signs the rest of the Padres are beginning to live up to expectations. Most notable is Soto, who reached base three times Tuesday night, then twice on Wednesday, including his moonshot in the fourth.

“I took a lot of steps forward, a few steps back,” Soto said. “But I think this one is really good, and I feel like I’m in a really good place right now.”

Machado has also struggled on the plate, and he only went 1-for-4 on Wednesday. But he was inches away from extending the Padres’ lead with a two-run blaster in the fifth – before Braves midfielder Sam Hilliard robbed him with a wall-jumping hold, evoking images of Adam Jones punching Machado at World Baseball 2017 deprived Classic.

“I thought I’d smuggle one out there,” Machado said.

Nonetheless, Machado has delivered plenty of hard contact over the past few days. When he and Soto turn a corner, it’s a scary proposition for opposing pitching staff given Tatis’ impending return.

Meanwhile, the Padres’ pitching team will welcome back Joe Musgrove this weekend after missing the first three weeks while recovering from a broken left big toe.

“These are two big, big players who will help us enormously,” Machado said. “We are looking forward to it. … Even if they come back, we’ll keep playing padre baseball, I think we’ll be fine.

Recently, the offense has been absent from padre baseball. But the pitching and defense were plentiful. Machado made a trio of standout plays at third base Wednesday, including a pinpoint spin throw to rob Ronald Acuña Jr. of a hit in the fifth. Trent Grisham also expertly patrolled midfield, and both Ha-Seong Kim and Jake Cronenworth finished the innings with outstanding defensive plays.

“That’s why I don’t have a voice,” a hoarse Martinez said afterwards. “I pretty much screamed every inning.”

Martinez put on his best performance of the season while there are many questions about his role in the future. The Padres plan to reduce their rotation from six to five next week, with several days off on the horizon. With Musgrove’s return on Saturday, two starters are likely headed to the greater area.

Martinez made a strong case for staying in the rotation – although he made it clear that wasn’t his goal.

“I bat to win ball games,” Martinez said. “I don’t know if I should apply for my place. … It was clear to me from the start that I only wanted to win a World Series.”

That’s a mindset that Padres manager Melvin can clearly put behind him.

The Padres had lost three in a row and six out of seven. They hadn’t held the lead since Saturday. On Wednesday, at the end of the fourth inning, Melvin had gone onto the stairs on the other side of the dugout. He’s almost never there. Then Soto homered and Melvin stayed for a few more innings when the Padres scored.

“Desperate measures for desperate times, I guess,” Melvin quipped. “…It’s a superstitious game. Can’t hurt, can it?”

Not on Wednesday. And the Padres are back in the Victory Column.

“Sometimes,” Melvin said, “no matter how you get it, victory is a welcome relief.”