SAN DIEGO — The Padres don’t have an All-Star infielder in 2023, which is strange, they’ll tell you, because they think Ha-seong Kim deserves quite a bit.
And maybe he has been. (More about Kim later.) But what’s the real reason it’s weird? The Padres employed Manny Machado, Xander Bogarts, and Jake Cronenworth in their outfield. All three were All-Stars in 2021 and 22. Then all three were paid well ahead of the ’23 season.
Of course, the first half of that ’23 season has been a complete disappointment in San Diego. Aside from an 8-5 win over the Angels on Tuesday, the Padres would reach the All-Star break below .500. Each of those three perennial All-Stars posted numbers well below their career averages.
This is not ideal. But at the very least, it clears the way for the Padres to make changes in the second half. If that trio can mash like their track record indicates they are capable…
Padres manager Bob Melvin said, “It’s going to be a good thing for us.”
It certainly felt possible to a packed Petco Park on a sunny Fourth of July afternoon, where the Padres defeated Shohei Ohtani. Cronenworth doubled in each of his first two at-bats, before going back to back with Bogarts in the sixth. It was the first time a teammate had pushed Ohtani consistently deep in the majors, and the Angels superstar left early with a blister on his finger.
Bogaerts’ homer was his second in as many games, and he finished 2-for-3 with a walk. Neither of them reached base as often as Machado, who went 3–3 on a walk. It was a display of offensive power against one of the best pitchers in the game.
Cronenworth said, “It’s always fun to get a challenge and face someone who is just as good, arguably the best player ever.” “Getting the chance to face someone like that, it’s always a fun competition.”
Cronenworth, who had never faced Ohtani before Tuesday, became the first player to get three extra-base hits against him in a major league game. Cronenworth, once a two-way player in the Rays’ system, will have a unique appreciation for Ohtani’s talents.
“Yeah — but not as good,” Cronenworth said with a laugh. “He’s one of the best hitters in baseball, and he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. No one else can say that.”
Thus, Tuesday may have brought the breakthrough Cronenworth was looking for.
Melvin said, “From a really good pitcher… you can see a little bit of a confidence boost.” “He is staying back a little better, the bat is in the area a little longer. Hopefully, this is a really good game for him going forward.
The same goes for Bogaerts and Machado, who dealt with their share of injuries during the first half. Both had recently indicated breakup. Then Tuesday was the first time the two had three hits in the same game as teammates.
“Obviously me and him want to play at that level,” Bogarts said. “We know we are capable of this – and can do even more.”
This was great support for Joe Musgrove, who limited the Angels to one run in seven leadoff innings while striking out 11. The Padres’ bullpen faltered in the ninth, with newly promoted lefty José Castillo giving up four runs, prompting Melvin to be the closer. Josh Hyder.
Hader pitched on Monday as well, putting his status in question for Wednesday’s series finale. Heider has yet to appear in three straight games as a Padre, and Melvin was clearly trying to avoid using Heider unless he absolutely had to.
“you know what?” Melvin would say later. “It’s better than losing the game.”
Header also wasn’t the fastest, drawing a pair of walks to advance to the plate with the bases loaded. Then Taylor Ward hit an odd spinner over the mound. Kim charged it to second base and made an excellent running game to end the game.
Kim entered the game on Tuesday leading all National League defenders with 11 outs on average. Five innings earlier, he had made a similarly outstanding play on a ball that hit Cronenworth’s glove at first base. He calmly downed it, picked it up and fired back to dismiss Cronenworth.
Melvin said, “I think he’s the best defender in the game.” “I think a lot of his stats would suggest that. … It’s a huge game to end that game, and not many people can do that.