Machado, Hosmer delivering on promise

May 7th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- In consecutive offseasons, Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado arrived in San Diego, signaling a serious shift in the tenor of a franchise that needed a jolt. Their signings came with expectations. These weren’t the same old Padres.

Half a decade later, Hosmer and Machado are doing their level best to turn the visions they had back then for this franchise into a reality. The Padres see themselves as legitimate contenders this season. They’ve built a roster that can pitch and defend with the best of 'em.

On offense, however, it’s been a rough go. In the starting lineup on Friday night, San Diego ran out seven hitters batting .234 or below. But the Padres also pencil Machado and Hosmer into the middle of their lineup, and lately, that’s been just enough.

Again, Hosmer and Machado, a pair of Miami natives, sparked a 3-2 victory over the Marlins at Petco Park. Hosmer opened the scoring in the first inning with a booming RBI double. Machado, meanwhile, finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk.

When the dust had settled, the two had flipped places on the MLB batting-average leaderboard. It’s now Machado in the top spot, hitting .382, with Hosmer in second at .371. Regardless of who’s in first, it’s been a remarkable start for both -- and just when the Padres needed it.

"We push each other for sure," Machado said. "If we bring it every single day, everybody else is going to have to come and bring it. Just lead by example. That’s what we’re doing.”

Here’s one way of looking at it: Even with seven spots in their lineup underperforming, the Padres are 18-9, in a virtual tie with the Dodgers atop the National League West standings.

“For me, I’m a bit of an optimist. We’re getting a lot of wins and not getting a ton of production,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “Those guys are carrying the load. But you know that a lot of these guys have some track records.”

The Padres, of course, are without Fernando Tatis Jr., one of the sport’s most dynamic offensive weapons. In the shorter term, they’re waiting on Luke Voit and Wil Myers to return, perhaps within the next week.

If and when the Padres begin getting contributions elsewhere in their lineup, they’re adamant that their offense can be a force. In that regard, they took a step forward on Friday night.

It was the bottom of the lineup that sparked a fifth-inning rally. Trent Grisham, who also worked a pair of walks on the night, opened the fifth with a triple. Matt Beaty followed by doubling him home. C.J. Abrams used his speed to force an errant throw from Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas and reached on an error.

“A lot of guys are putting together good at-bats,” Beaty said. “[Machado and Hosmer] are seeing results. They’re putting together great, quality at-bats, hitting the ball hard. They’re carrying the offense right now. Not that they’re going to scuffle, but hopefully when they need us to pick them up, hopefully we’ll be clicking at the right time, too.”

Machado capped that fifth-inning rally with a laser RBI single into left field. It would prove to be the difference. Yu Darvish, who worked seven excellent frames, allowed his only two runs of the night half an inning later on Jesús Aguilar’s two-run homer.

From there, the Padres’ bullpen found a way, even with setup man Luis García and closer Taylor Rogers unavailable. Robert Suarez cruised through the eighth, and Steven Wilson worked around some early traffic to pick up his first career save.

“That was a fun one,” said Wilson, who is viewed as future-closer material by some in the organization. “I’ll remember this one forever.”

With men on the corners and two outs, Wilson got Jesús Sánchez to fly tamely to left field, where Jurickson Profar squeezed the 27th out. The crowd whipped into a frenzy.

Really, it’s been that way all season here -- near-capacity crowds and a city that has firmly embraced its team and the heightened expectations -- expectations that first arrived half a decade ago, when Hosmer put pen to paper on what was then a franchise-record eight-year deal. 

The first half of that contract wasn’t kind to Hosmer. He struggled mightily at times, and the team mostly underperformed. He has been the subject of trade speculation dating to last season’s deadline. But right now, the Padres sure are happy he’s here.

“To see him put all that stuff behind him and go out there and just perform at the highest level and be an All-Star this year -- he signed here to bring a championship to this city,” Machado said. “And that’s what we’re trying to do.”