Padres' batters feast in Mexico City altitude

10 different SD & SF players (!) go deep, tying an MLB record

April 30th, 2023

MEXICO CITY -- Between innings, the mariachi band played and the sellout crowd at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú sang along in unison. When launched a no-doubt home run in the third inning, greeted him at the top step to bestow him with a sombrero. 

When hit a two-run homer to put the Padres on top in the seventh, the ballpark erupted. When slammed the door in the ninth, the Vicente Fernández classic “Volver, Volver” blared from the speakers, and the ballpark sang again.

On a warm Saturday evening in Mexico City, the Padres’ slow start to the 2023 season felt like it was 2,000 miles away. Because it was. Their offensive struggles? More of a problem for sea level.

The Padres and Giants brought big league baseball to the Mexico capital for the very first time on Saturday. And they did so with an altitude-aided offensive display for the ages -- a 16-11 slugfest in which the Padres slugged a bit more to open the Mexico City Series.

Five Padres went deep, including Machado twice, as San Diego outlasted the Giants. At altitude of 7,300 feet, the two teams combined for 11 home runs, two shy of the Major League record set by the D-backs and Phillies in 2019. Ten players went deep, equaling the Major League mark set in that same game.

“I can’t say I love pitching here,” said Padres starting pitcher , who was tagged for seven runs across 3 1/3 innings. “But that’s one of the funnest ballgames I’ve ever been a part of.”

Not that an environment like this one necessarily needed the offense. The party started early and lasted into the night. The ballpark buzzed long before first pitch, with gates open three hours early to allow fans to catch the full batting practice for both teams.

Horns blared. The wave broke out multiple times. When the action on the field slowed -- rare, in a game like this -- fans danced to local tunes, often played by a mariachi band behind home plate.

“I love it,” said . “I loved it every second, every moment.”

Said Tatis: “I had goosebumps before the game started, and when you have those feelings, you definitely play better.”

The right atmosphere at the right time for these Padres. Their vaunted offense limped into Mexico, struggling in nearly every department but walks. The team opened the season just 13-14.

Then, each of the Padres’ first five hitters launched home runs on Saturday. Cruz started the fireworks with a solo shot in the third. Soto and went back to back in the fourth. Tatis and Machado did so in the fifth.

“This,” Tatis said, “is just what we needed.”

With Cruz’s third-inning blast, he became the oldest player in franchise history to homer, surpassing a mark held by Rickey Henderson. That was one of five hits for Cruz, making him the second-oldest player in big league history with a five-hit game (behind only a 45-year-old Pete Rose).

On top of it all, Cruz even swiped second base during a four-run eighth inning in which the Padres broke the game open.

“It’s amazing,” Soto said. “You see a guy like that – he’s a grinder. He’s grinding every day, and it’s amazing to see what he can do. He’s coming every day to play hard. It doesn't matter if he’s struggling at all, he’s coming every day to play. It’s crazy to see that at 42 years old.”

Lefty earned the win in his big league debut, retiring Joc Pederson to end the top of the seventh before Machado’s go-ahead two-run shot. Martinez followed with two lights-out relief innings, striking out five and somehow making the environment seem normal.

It wasn’t, of course. While the party raged in the bleachers, Martinez said his mind wandered. More than anything, he wanted to ensure that he wasn’t the one who would spoil the team’s planned postgame celebration. They had packed a four-foot Buzz Lightyear piñata full of candy. They planned to bust it open.

Naturally, Cruz had the honors. His first swing took Lightyear’s head clean off, but Cruz didn’t muster all that much candy out of his first few cuts. (His worst swings of the night.) Eventually, Cruz grabbed the piñata and threw it to the floor.

It set off a clubhouse-wide celebration of Padres players, most of whom donned City Connect-themed Lucha Libre masks. Cruz, meanwhile, danced while sporting the home run sombrero -- a prop that Tatis found on his adventures during Friday’s off-day. That prop was initially meant for these two games only. But after a night like this -- who knows?

“If we’re going to keep rolling, of course we’re going to take it to San Diego,” Tatis said.

They’ve got nine more innings in Mexico City first.

And they might score a few more runs.