Soto's 2 homers lost in a blizzard of runs
WASHINGTON -- There was the grand slam followed by a cycle, with a storm of runs allowed in between. The Nationals gave up a team record for runs in a 24-8 loss to the Padres on Friday night at Nationals Park.
“Nobody really threw strikes, everybody was behind, a lot of balls were left up,” manager Dave Martinez said following the Nats’ largest margin of defeat in team history. “When you have a team like the Padres and you look at their lineup and those guys are swinging the bat, when you’re 2-0, 3-1, you’re going to get hit -- and you saw that tonight.”
The flurry of runs allowed by the Nats overshadowed one of Juan Soto’s best offensive games of the season. Fresh off walloping a historic 520-foot blast in the Home Run Derby, Soto hit a pair of homers, 427 feet and 407 feet, according to Statcast. It marked his second multi-homer game of the year and ninth of his career.
The tone was set for the first game back from the All-Star break when starting pitcher Erick Fedde allowed six runs off three hits and four walks in just 1 1/3 innings. His evening ended after 57 pitches, during which the Nationals also made defensive miscues.
“He was yanking everything today,” Martinez said. “He just couldn’t find the strike zone, falling behind, leaving pitches up. Just not a good day for ‘Fed’ today.”
This loss, though, doesn’t rest solely on Fedde’s shoulders. Martinez made six calls to the bullpen: Andres Machado, Paolo Espino, Sam Clay, Wander Suero, Ryne Harper and Jefry Rodriguez. In total, the Nationals allowed five home runs, including a grand slam by Wil Myers off Espino.
The previous mark for most runs given up in team history (2005-present) was 18 against Arizona on Aug. 3, 2019.
And when Nats pitchers weren't getting blasted by the long ball, they let the Padres do damage at-bat by at-bat. Jake Cronenworth completed hitting for the cycle in the sixth inning. The Nationals also committed three errors.
“We’ve got to throw the ball over the plate,” Martinez said. “We’ve got to get early strikes, get ahead of hitters and put them away. It sounds simple; I know it’s not that simple. But we can do it. I know we can do it.”
To preserve the taxed bullpen, Martinez hopes Patrick Corbin can give the Nationals at least six innings in his start on Saturday. Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Kyle Finnegan and Austin Voth are among the relievers who will be available.
Adding to the pitching dynamic, veteran catcher René Rivera -- whom the Nationals signed on Friday amid backstop injuries -- caught a four-hour game in his first day with his new team. He also was assessed a throwing error on a double steal in the first inning, noting that overthrowing is something he doesn’t like doing. After Fedde’s sooner-than-expected exit, Rivera talked with the relievers between innings in the dugout to game-plan for the long evening.
“I’ve been doing this thing for many years,” Rivera said. "I kind of know what I have to do with them, how to pick their brains, how to communicate with the pitchers. It’s not easy, but I’ve been doing it forever. … Today was a tough one.”
Center fielder Victor Robles made an early exit in the second inning after experiencing dizziness, which Martinez believes was because of heat or dehydration.
“Today was just a rough day all the way around,” Martinez said. “It’s one of those days where I’m going to sit back tonight, go home, shake this one off and come back, be ready to play tomorrow.”