Bogaerts sparks SD with first homer for new team

April 2nd, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- is making himself right at home in San Diego. Eleven more years of this? Yeah, the Padres will take it.

Bogaerts smacked his first home run with his new team on Saturday night, sparking the Padres’ first win of the season, 8-4, over the Rockies at Petco Park.

“It’s an offense that -- I’ll put it up against anyone,” Bogaerts said. “And you’d still feel pretty confident about our chances.”

and added two hits apiece, and -- fresh off finalizing a seven-year deal to remain in San Diego through 2030 -- singled, walked and scored twice. put the game out of reach in the eighth with a two-run single, his first hit of the year.

But it was Bogaerts who got things started. With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, he pulverized a knee-high fastball and sent it to the second deck in left field, a two-run homer to put the Padres in front.

“Felt good, man,” Bogaerts said. “I turned on an inside pitch, down and in. It was a good swing. … Off the bat, you know that it’s gone.”

Bogaerts has opened his Padres tenure with hits in each of his first three games, including a three-hit night in the team’s Opening Day loss to the Rockies. He is the first Padre to record at least five hits in his first three games with the club since Freddy Galvis in 2018.

Bogaerts has also given the Padres some flexibility in the top half of their lineup. He batted first on Friday night against left-hander Kyle Freeland. He has batted in the cleanup spot in the two other games against righties.

“He can really hit, I know that,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “And he likes to hit in different spots in the lineup, too. It’s fluctuated a little bit here early on, and you’d like to have some stability with our guys. But we’re trying to find it. … It’ll probably be a little bit more stable when [] comes back.”

When Tatis returns from his PED suspension after the first 20 games, Bogaerts is expected to slot into the No. 4 spot on a more permanent basis. Based on the first look at his aggressive-yet-disciplined approach, he should fit right in behind Tatis, Soto and Machado.

“He’s a pretty special hitter obviously, and he’s off to a pretty good start,” Cronenworth said. “He’s done it for years. That’s one of the things we need in our lineup, just somebody who can go up there and not swing just to swing. He’s not looking to walk or just get on base. He’s looking to do damage every time. 

“I think having a guy in the middle of the order like that -- it’s pretty good for us. It complements the rest of our lineup very well.”

The Padres mostly cruised after Bogaerts’ first-inning homer, though they ran into a bit of trouble in the sixth. The Rockies trailed by four entering the frame, but each of their first four hitters reached base, including three via extra-base hit.

After C.J. Cron’s third homer of the series cut the Padres’ lead to one, Ryan McMahon laced a double into the right-field corner. Out of nowhere, right-hander Michael Wacha was on the ropes in his Padres debut. 

And then he wasn’t. Wacha deftly escaped trouble, like the 11-year veteran that he is. He struck out Elehuris Montero, then induced a couple popups to escape the threat.

“Look, you’ve got to dig deep there,” Melvin said. “... All of a sudden it’s a one-run game. That definitely gets his attention, and you have to push it a little bit harder. He got us a couple big outs.”

The Padres responded with a run in the bottom of the frame and two more in the eighth on Soto’s single. Making his season debut,  nailed down the ninth, striking out a pair.

For the first time this season, the 2023 Padres looked like, well, the 2023 Padres -- the version expected to compete for all of baseball’s biggest prizes.

After the offseason they just had, it was only fitting that Bogaerts was at the center of it.