Full-team effort lifts Padres in Wolf's MLB debut

Club's No. 16 prospect waits through 84-minute rain delay to earn first Major League win

July 23rd, 2023

DETROIT -- The Padres have gotten more than enough from their superstar bats lately. Manny Machado has been the hottest hitter in baseball in July. Juan Soto is mashing moonshots on the regular. Fernando Tatis Jr.’s five tools are on constant display.

The Padres have also gotten plenty from their starting five. Entering play Saturday, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove ranked first and second in fWAR among National League starters over the past two months. Yu Darvish and Seth Lugo have been rock solid. Michael Wacha, despite his recent shoulder trouble, has proven a shrewd signing.

The stars are certainly playing like stars. But the Padres are facing an uphill climb to the postseason over the season’s final 2 1/2 months. It’s going to take an organization-wide effort with contributions from every direction.

In short, it’s going to take more games like Saturday night in Detroit.

The Padres routed the Tigers 14-3 at Comerica Park. Chalk it up as a roster-wide success -- and indeed, an organization-wide success.

“Winning teams don’t just do it with just certain guys,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin. “You have to do it up and down the lineup.”

Left-hander , called upon for his big league debut with Wacha on the IL, also picked up his first big league victory. Wolf worked around an 84-minute rain delay to pitch five innings of three-run ball.

“Seventy-five pitches probably felt like 125,” said Melvin, who acknowledged he considered lifting Wolf amid the delay. “He had to endure probably more than most do in his first big league start. A big league win, congrats to him.”

That should be cause for celebration on a team that has searched high and low for rotation depth. The regular starting five has been excellent. But the Padres have gotten 17 starts from pitchers outside of that group. Entering Saturday’s game, those pitchers were 2-9 with a 5.73 ERA as starters.

Which led the Padres to Wolf, their No. 16 prospect, who was having a breakout season at Double-A San Antonio. They thrust the 24-year-old into a crucial spot on their schedule, then watched as he calmly handled everything that was thrown his way.

“There was no doubt in my mind,” Wolf said, when asked whether he thought he’d still be pitching after the delay. “The only people that were going to say otherwise were [pitching coach] Ruben [Niebla] or Bob. I’d have gone back out there if it was three or four hours later. Anything they asked me to do, I was going to do.”

Aside from a three-run second inning that spanned both sides of the rain delay, Wolf limited hard contact. He only recorded one strikeout and induced two whiffs. But given the circumstances, the Padres couldn’t have asked for much more from a 24-year-old making his big league debut.

“I’m a competitor, man,” Wolf said. “For my debut I wasn’t going to leave after an inning, giving up three runs. I wanted every bit of going back out there and proving why I was here.”

The San Diego offense responded swiftly to Detroit’s three-run second inning with four in the third. Machado moved into a tie with Soto for the team lead with his 19th homer, a go-ahead three-run shot. The Padres wouldn’t look back.

Again, Tatis, Soto and Machado did their part. But this time, they got plenty of backing from the bottom of the lineup as well. Luis Campusano notched the first four-hit game of his career, including a moonshot three-run blast to cap the scoring in the eighth.

Jake Cronenworth hit a run-scoring triple for a second consecutive night. Alfonso Rivas doubled in a five-run fifth. And even though Trent Grisham didn’t notch a hit, he started it all by working a brilliant 10-pitch walk to lead off the third inning.

As for leadoff man Ha-Seong Kim, he might not fall into that “superstar” category. But, well, maybe he should?

Kim currently leads the team in bWAR, entering play Saturday at 4.5. The Padres haven’t had a 5-WAR second baseman since Mark Loretta in 2004. Perhaps taking out some frustration after two uncharacteristic defensive blunders in the sixth, Kim launched a solo homer in the seventh inning Saturday. He finished 3-for-4 with a pair of walks.

“Whether it’s Kim doing what he’s doing in the leadoff spot now, or what we saw at the bottom of the order, it certainly takes a full team to win and get to where we want to go,” Melvin said.