Manny takes Kershaw deep, but SD falls short
Moonshot comes in first career at-bat vs. former teammate
SAN DIEGO -- When the Padres signed Manny Machado to a record-setting contract this offseason, they did so with a clear intent to close the gap on the Dodgers atop the National League West.
Machado needed one at-bat against his former club to prove his value to that cause. But the six-time defending division champs still have their perch atop the NL West. And they won't be knocked off it so easily.
In his first career at-bat against Clayton Kershaw, Machado took his former teammate deep -- a first-inning moonshot into the second deck.
Ian Kinsler homered two innings later, and the Padres had Kershaw on the ropes.
“We didn't deliver that knockout blow,” said Padres manager Andy Green after the Dodgers rallied from an early three-run deficit for a 4-3 victory on Friday night.
“Tough loss,” Machado said. “Definitely a tough loss.”
Machado’s blast gave the Padres a 2-0 lead, and he didn’t get cheated. He crushed a hanging 3-2 slider toward the Estrella Jalisco Landing. It was his longest home run (437 feet) and highest exit velocity (111 mph) as a Padre.
After falling behind in the count, 0-2, Kershaw threw three straight pitches out of the strike zone. Machado laid off all three. Then Kershaw tried to come down and in with a slider, but he left it thigh-high.
"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit," Machado said. "And I got one."
After making contact, Machado touched the brim of his helmet, then casually flipped his bat toward the home dugout. He circled the bases coolly, as Petco Park whipped into a frenzy. It was the type of moment the Padres envisioned when Machado inked his 10-year deal in February.
He authored a few of those in Los Angeles late last season, even if he’s now remembered more for his "Johnny Hustle" comments and his confrontation with Jesus Aguilar. Machado posted an .811 OPS in the first two rounds of the playoffs last year, before struggling in the Fall Classic.
“I have some good memories [in Los Angeles], and I enjoyed my time there," Machado said before the game. "... You can't think about that. Obviously I've had memories there. But at the end of the day, it's a new year, we have new goals. This is where you want to be.”
The Padres have spent the past decade looking up at the Dodgers in the NL West. But they made a statement when they added Machado in February. And they’d clearly hoped to make another statement this weekend.
For a moment, they seemed poised to do so. After Kinsler’s homer, the Padres put men in scoring position with nobody out in the third and fourth innings. Kershaw wriggled his way out of trouble both times.
“We had him on the ropes early,” Kinsler said. “But he's as good as he is for a reason. It's very rare, even when you get him on the ropes, that you're going to knock him out.”
Meanwhile, the Dodgers clawed their way back before Max Muncy’s RBI single put Los Angeles on top in the ninth. Muncy hit a hot-shot off the glove of first baseman Eric Hosmer, plating Austin Barnes with the first run closer Kirby Yates had allowed in a month.
The Padres -- with the game’s top farm system and, a proven superstar on the left side of their infield -- appear to be closing the gap in the division. But the Dodgers remain seated squarely atop it.