Padres find their winning form again

September 16th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- On the eighth pitch of their duel, José Quintana caught way too much plate with a thigh-high fastball, and knew it when he hit it. When the ball landed in a tunnel in the left-field bleachers at Oracle Park, Profar uncorked a monumental bat flip -- five rotations, at least -- as the Padres dugout erupted, a few feet to his right.

And in that moment, these Padres didn’t look at all like the Padres who have spent a month fading in the National League West and treading water in the Wild Card race. No, these Padres worked deep counts, got a big-time effort from their starting pitcher, tacked on runs when they needed to -- and enjoyed the heck out of it.

Now, can they bottle that? Maybe tap into it a bit over the next 2 1/2 weeks? Because if so, these Padres looked an awful lot like the team that spent the first five months of the season serious about their October aspirations.

“That was a sign of who we’ve been and what we can be,” said right-hander , who worked six quality innings in the Padres' 9-6 victory over the Giants at Oracle Park. “It just feels good to be back in the win column, man. It’s been awhile.”

Sure has. It’s been a week, to be exact. Wednesday’s victory snapped the Padres’ five-game losing streak to open their road trip, and it kept them within a game of the Cardinals in the race for the second NL Wild Card spot. and had four hits apiece, becoming the first pair of Padres middle infielders since Jody Reed and Andújar Cedeño in 1995 to record matching four-hit games.

But it was Profar’s seventh-inning blast that served as the game’s decisive moment. Manager Jayce Tingler had inserted his do-it-all utility man into the leadoff spot, asking him before the game to serve as something of a “spark.”

Sure enough, Profar opened the game by working an eight-pitch battle against Dominic Leone, then punctuating it with a leadoff double. That ignited a two-run first inning, with Frazier’s two-out double giving the Padres their first lead of the road trip. In the sixth, Profar again fought to the eighth pitch of a pivotal at-bat, and this time, he left the yard.

“Great at-bats, obviously,” said Tingler. “First, the leadoff double. And the Giants, at the time, were kind of slugging their way back in the game, and I thought Profar’s two-run homer there from the right side of the plate -- I thought that was huge. It gave us a little more breathing room.”

Musgrove wasn’t at his best, but there’s a reason he’s been the Padres' most reliable starter this year. He tossed six quality innings, allowing three runs on five hits and exited with the Padres leading 5-3.

“You want your lineup to come to the field and know that they’ve got a chance to win the game that night, know what they’re going to get,” Musgrove said. “I’ve tried my best to go out there and just compete.”

That kind of effort isn’t exactly new to Frazier, Musgrove’s longtime teammate in Pittsburgh.

“That’s Joe,” Frazier said. “He’s going to leave everything he’s got on the mound, every time out. Whether he’s got it or not, he’s going to give us a chance to stay in the ballgame and give us a chance to win the game every time. We feel pretty confident with him on the mound.”

And now for the hard part.

The Padres snapped their losing streak Wednesday with a four-hour, six-minute grind of a ballgame that finished around 11 p.m. PT. That leaves them less than 14 hours before another huge game -- a game that will determine whether they head into their weekend showdown with the Cardinals trailing by half a game or a game and a half.

Under those circumstances, consider what two straight victories might mean to a Padres team that has seen its lead in the Wild Card race slowly slip for the past month and a half.

“I understand fans are frustrated,” Musgrove said. “We’re definitely frustrated. Things aren’t going the way that we want them to. But it’s not a lack of focus. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s just a lack of results.

“We haven’t been seeing the results that we want. ... Sometimes you’ve got to go out there and do it. You have to see it to believe it. You have to really have a game like tonight, have the full package put together, for things to really fall into place, for guys to get their confidence back.”