Hours before stepping up to the plate against Clayton Kershaw at Globe Life Field, Manny Machado said the one thing the Padres needed more than anything was to play with energy, to “play the Padre baseball we’ve been playing all year and not worry about anything else.”
What screams “Padre baseball” more than back-to-back homers and an aggressive bat flip?
Machado provided a jolt for San Diego’s previously quiet lineup in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday night, crushing a leadoff homer to left field then emphatically throwing his bat back toward the dugout as he shouted at his Padres teammates.
The Padres ultimately came up short in Arlington, falling behind 0-2 in the series after a 6-5 loss, but Machado’s solo shot -- and passionate reaction -- seemed to be just what San Diego needed to bring its lineup back to life.
“Just sparked the whole entire team. I feel like we got a lot of momentum back. He fired up the dugout and certainly got everybody to their feet,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “That’s what he does. He’s a sparkplug. Our offense was kinda dead at that point, so he definitely woke up the dugout, definitely woke up the offense and got us going.
Hosmer responded by launching his first home run of this postseason out to center field. With two swings, the Padres cut the Dodgers’ lead to just one run. Those sixth-inning homers and their ninth-inning rally offered a reminder of what their dynamic lineup can do. And Machado, who walked to load the bases in the ninth, was in the middle of both.
“The first one that he hit well off Kershaw, I think it certainly got our guys going. His at-bats were great all night, but the one there in the ninth was a hell of a battle between him and [Joe] Kelly,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “Hoz with the homer after Manny, those guys got it going. That’s when our offense finally started to get some runs on the board.”
The Padres have hit consecutive homers twice this postseason after doing so just once in the playoffs previously, when Tony Gwynn and Greg Vaughn went back-to-back in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series.
It was fitting that Machado and Hosmer got to Kershaw. They were both quiet in the NL Wild Card Series and went hitless in Game 1 on Tuesday night, but they have a track record of success against the longtime Dodgers ace. Machado entered the night 5-for-18 with two homers off Kershaw, while Hosmer was 9-for-27 with three extra-base hits.
"I think I probably came out in the sixth and didn't quite have my stuff like I wanted it to. I felt fine physically, but it just wasn't coming out quite like it had been in the first few innings,” Kershaw said. “Manny's ball was a slider, that's kind of what he hits, down and in, so that just wasn't a good slider. And then Hosmer, I think we probably just went in there probably one too many times.”
Kershaw became the first pitcher in postseason history to allow back-to-back homers three times in his career. He did so in last year’s NLDS Game 5, when Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto took him deep, and also against Ketel Marte and Jeff Mathis in Game 1 of the 2017 NLDS.
"Just trying to get this offense going,” Machado said before Game 2. “They held us down a little bit yesterday. Someone's gotta pay for it."