WASHINGTON -- The Padres vowed to start their second half strong. Give ’em credit, they couldn’t have started it much stronger than this.
On a record-setting offensive night, Jake Cronenworth was the star, hitting for the cycle in the Padres’ 24-8 rout of the Nationals.
On top of Cronenworth’s cycle -- the third in franchise history -- San Diego got five runs and a steal of home from Tommy Pham, a grand slam from Wil Myers and several other remarkable individual performances at Nationals Park. Add it all up, and you get 24 runs, the most in a game in Padres history.
“That was as relentless up and down the lineup as I’ve seen our crew,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “The discipline in the zone, the grinding … that was as nasty as I’ve seen our group.”
Cronenworth in particular.
In the first half of the season, he became an All-Star. One night into the second, he made history. Cronenworth doubled in the second inning, tripled in the third and homered in the fifth, before legging out an infield single in the sixth to complete the cycle.
He joined Matt Kemp in 2015 and Myers in ’17 as the only Padres to hit for the cycle (a feat that still hasn’t been accomplished at Petco Park). Both Kemp and Myers achieved theirs at Coors Field in Colorado, where, coincidentally, Cronenworth spent a few days earlier this week, basking in his first All-Star Game experience.
“Definitely was pretty tired after those two days, but I got some rest here in D.C. on Wednesday and Thursday,” Cronenworth said. “I was just trying to put together good at-bats and get good pitches to hit.”
In reality, Cronenworth could've completed his cycle an inning earlier, but Trea Turner made a leaping grab at shortstop to rob him of a single in the top of the first. Turner is the only other MLB player to hit for the cycle this season, having notched his third career cycle at Nationals Park on June 30.
When Cronenworth launched his 13th homer of the season in the top of the fifth inning, he said Turner’s catch was front and center in his mind. Twice in the Minors, Cronenworth said, he’d fallen a single shy of the cycle. This time, he wouldn’t be denied.
An inning later, with Cronenworth at the plate, the Nationals opted to play off the third-base bag, leaving the entire left side exposed. With a huge lead, Cronenworth didn’t consider bunting. But he scuffed one off the end of his bat, a dribbler toward the left side. No Nationals defender was anywhere in the vicinity.
“I guess I kind of surprised myself,” Cronenworth said. “It’s a pretty incredible thing to do.”
Cronenworth’s cycle wasn’t the only noteworthy accomplishment in the Padres’ 24-run outburst on Friday night. A few of the highlights:
• Pham finished a triple shy of his own cycle, and he scored five runs, tying Al Martin for the most in a game in franchise history.
• Pham also stole home on a perfectly executed double steal in the first inning, marking the Padres’ third steal of home this season.
• Myers continued the Slam Diego tour with a salami in a seven-run second inning for the Padres. It was the Padres’ 13th slam since the start of last season, easily the most in baseball. Myers has three of those.
• The last team with a cycle and a grand slam in the same game? The Texas Rangers exactly 11 years to the day earlier. It was Bengie Molina who had both.
• The 32 runs combined made this easily the highest-scoring game in the Majors this season.
• The 24 runs were the most for a team that had a player hit for the cycle and the most ever allowed by the Nationals.
Indeed, this game -- the longest nine-inning game in Padres history, at 4 hours, 15 minutes -- had a little bit of everything. But all in all, it was Cronenworth’s night, the latest chapter in his remarkable story.
Cronenworth arrived in San Diego two offseasons ago, perceived as a throw-in in the trade that also netted Pham from Tampa Bay. A surprise inclusion on the 2020 Opening Day roster, Cronenworth hasn’t looked back.
Now, he has an All-Star Game and a cycle under his belt, and he’s hitting .284 with an .837 OPS this year. He’s playing some downright spectacular defense -- mostly at second base, but realistically wherever the Padres need him in the infield.
“He’s developing into one of the better players in the league,” Tingler said. “And he hasn’t stopped growing.”
The drab undercurrent to Friday’s victory, however, was this: For all the runs and all the records, the Padres didn’t pick up any ground in the National League West. The Dodgers and Giants both won their games. The race has been that kind of relentless.
Still, the Padres sent a message Friday with their 24-run onslaught. How do they make sure it’s a tone-setter?
“We repeat it tomorrow,” Tingler said.
Well, maybe not the 24 runs and the cycle. (That’ll be hard to do.) But the Padres got the strong start they hoped for, and now they’ll look to ride it into a strong second half.