SAN DIEGO -- In the middle of their lineup, the Padres are getting what they paid for. That’s $444 million worth of production, to be exact.
For most of the season, the rest of the San Diego offense has slumped. The lineup isn’t deep enough, and it’s been reeling from the losses of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Franchy Cordero.
Through it all, however, the Padres have been able to count on their big-money signings from the past two offseasons.
Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado have shouldered a huge chunk of the burden, and they delivered again on Tuesday.
Machado and Hosmer crafted a three-run rally out of nothing in the bottom of the sixth inning, sending the Padres to a 3-2 victory over the D-backs at Petco Park. The win moved the clubs into a tie for second place in the National League West at 25-24.
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“That was big for us,” Hosmer said. “Against a guy like [Zack] Greinke, you aren’t going to get many opportunities.”
For 5 2/3 innings, the Padres did very little against the D-backs’ ace, who took a one-hitter into the sixth. Then Machado sent a rocket into center field, plating Ian Kinsler with an RBI single and setting the stage for Hosmer.
“It's a great spot to be in,” Hosmer said. “You know hitting behind [Machado], pitchers are going to be pitching around him and you're going to come up with men on base.”
Hosmer wasted no time delivering the game’s decisive blow. On the first pitch, Greinke painted a fastball on the outside corner and Hosmer went with it. He shot it into the second row of left-field seats, giving the Padres a 3-2 lead.
“Sometimes it's about how you sequence them,” said Padres manager Andy Green. “[Greinke] handled us pretty much the rest of the day.”
“Their best hitters got the hits,” Greinke said. “They did a good job.”
It marked the second time in as many nights that the Padres were shut out heading into the sixth before taking the lead for good with a two-run homer. Franmil Reyes provided the heroics on Monday against Luke Weaver.
Hosmer’s blast made a winner out of Matt Strahm, who was solid over six innings of two-run ball. Strahm only struck out two hitters, and he allowed two solo homers, but he limited the D-backs’ hard contact otherwise.
Since Tatis injured his hamstring late last month, Reyes, Machado and Hosmer have picked up the slack. Hosmer, in particular, has been red-hot. His average dipped to .184 on April 19. Since then, he’s hitting .346 over a 28-game stretch.
It’s a clearly a different Eric Hosmer from the 2018 edition. He struggled last season after signing his then-franchise-record contract. Green theorized that the results have been different mainly because, well, the Padres are different.
“He's the same guy -- great person, great clubhouse leader,” Green said. “He's had a few more [big] swings. He's probably settled into an environment that is much more of a winning environment now. That's what he's been accustomed to. That's where he thrives. Out of anything for him, that's been the biggest difference.”
Kirby Yates has been one of the game’s most dominant relief weapons for a while now. But even by his lofty standards, Yates’ last nine games have bordered on the absurd.
Yates has faced 38 hitters in that stretch. He’s struck out 23 of them -- including all three in the ninth on Tuesday.
“Nothing's changed other than just, probably, confidence,” said Padres catcher Austin Hedges. “When you go out there, and you shove every single time as a closer, you start knowing what to expect. He expects, every single time, to go out and dominate.”
Yates has a 38 percent strikeout rate since joining the Padres in April 2017 -- the highest mark in franchise history among pitchers with at least 100 innings. His fastball/splitter combo is borderline untouchable.
In Hedges’ eyes, however, it takes more than a couple of nasty pitches to do what Yates has done. (He leads the Majors in saves with 19 and owns a 1.17 ERA.)
“The hard thing about closing is closing against in-division teams,” Hedges said. “You face these guys so many times, and you make one mistake, it's a blown save.
“He does his homework as much as any of these starters do. He does so much homework. He's one of the guys that shakes me off quite a bit, because he knows what's him. That’s so important.”
Strahm allowed five runs on eight hits against the D-backs on April 1, and he didn’t last through the third inning. Turns out, his 2019 debut was only a hiccup. Strahm’s transition to the rotation has been seamless ever since.
He worked six innings of two-run ball on Tuesday night, allowing a pair of homers, but only two baserunners otherwise. Strahm needed only 69 pitches to do so, before he was removed for a pinch-hitter in the fateful sixth inning.
Strahm was a dominant reliever in the Padres bullpen last season, posting a 2.05 ERA with more than 10 K’s per nine innings. But since he became a starter, he’s made a conscious decision to pitch to contact. In 50 innings, he has 41 strikeouts.
“Less pitches,” Strahm said. “You can’t get an out in one pitch if you’ve got to strike someone out with three.”
Even with a limit of around 90 pitches per outing this season, Strahm has averaged more than six innings in his past seven starts. He’s walked only three hitters in that span, and since that dreadful debut, he has a 2.18 ERA.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.