Bats perk up with pair of prodigious homers

Offensive eruption provides plenty of support for Paddack in return from IL

May 10th, 2021

With two swings separated by 12 pitches, the Padres unleashed an awful lot of pent-up offensive energy on Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.

First, Giants starter Johnny Cueto hung a slider, and pulverized it, sending it 445 feet to right field, where it landed among the kayaks. Later that frame, Cueto hung another, and made no mistake, launching a 454-foot blast to the rarely visited center-field bleachers beyond the home bullpen.

San Diego rode nearly 900 feet of second-inning homers from its middle infielders to an 11-1 victory over the Giants. Those two blasts sparked a much-needed offensive breakout for the Padres, who avoided a sweep and crept back to within 1 1/2 games of San Francisco in the early National League West standings.

“Two long homers in one inning,” said Cronenworth, “will definitely help jumpstart an offense.”

Since Statcast began tracking home runs, the Cronenworth and Tatis dingers marked the first time two Padres had authored blasts of at least 445 feet in the same frame. Remove a couple instances where it happened at Coors Field, and it’s also the first time two Padres had done so in the same game.

With Tatis, it’s perhaps expected. But Cronenworth’s homer was the longest of his career -- and the first by a Padre into San Francisco’s fabled McCovey Cove since Yasmani Grandal in 2014.

“That may have been probably the best one I’ve seen him get,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler.

That was plenty of offensive support for the tandem of Chris Paddack and Ryan Weathers, who worked three scoreless innings apiece. Paddack returned from a stint on the injured list with four strikeouts and an electric fastball that was reminiscent of the 2019 version. Weathers, meanwhile, piggybacked a right-handed starter for the second time in five days and allowed just one hit, while striking out three.

And maybe, just maybe, those two home runs marked the start of something bigger for a San Diego offense that has wildly underperformed expectations this season. The Padres entered play on Sunday with an 89 wRC+, tied for 24th in the Majors. Their .664 OPS ranked 27th.

“Hitting is contagious,” Tingler said. “One or two guys go, then you’ve got three or four guys going, and you’ve got the line moving. I thought today was a good start to potentially get on a little bit of a roll.”

The struggles have emerged, quite clearly, from two separate issues with the team’s offense.

The Padres’ two best hitters have slumped. Tatis and Manny Machado entered play Sunday hitting a combined .230.

Tatis, however, went 2-for-5 on Sunday, notching his second consecutive multi-hit game. Considering Machado’s track record, the Padres envision a similar breakout coming from their third baseman -- who has been excellent on the basepaths and has dazzled defensively, despite the struggles at the plate.

That’s been the most jarring flaw. But the lack of lineup depth should be equally concerning, and perhaps more so. The Padres figure they’ll eventually get superstar production from their two superstars. The bottom of their lineup has a bit less certainty.

Jurickson Profar, Ha-Seong Kim and Tommy Pham have all struggled this season. They were among the biggest reasons the Padres felt they’d built one of the deepest lineups on paper this winter. That hasn’t come to fruition yet. But the Padres insist it’s coming.

“The whole world has seen what this offense is capable of,” Padres center fielder Trent Grisham said. “If you think we’re going to be held down for 162 games, well, that’s your opinion. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

“We’ll just wait it out, and whenever this offense decides to come together, it’s going to come together nicely.”

Did we just see the beginning of that on Sunday afternoon? Possibly. But it’ll take more than one game to know for sure. And if there was ever a place to build on an 11-run breakout -- next up on the Padres’ schedule is a trip to hitter-friendly Coors Field for a three-game series against the last-place Rockies.