Manny Machado has big night, Blake Snell sharp again as Padres beat Cubs

Tribune Content Agency

SAN DIEGO — The Padres continued to get that Blake Snell and that Gary Sanchez.

If what they got Monday night was also the beginning of getting that Manny Machado, there is a far better chance 2023 turns out the way it was meant to.

Arguably the biggest missing piece so far in the Padres’ disappointing start to the season, Machado had three hits and scored three runs in a 5-0 victory that salvaged a series split with the Cubs at Petco Park.

Snell threw six shutout innings for the second straight start, and Sanchez hit his third home run in seven games with the Padres, who worked back to within four games of .500 at the season’s 60-game mark.

Machado was playing in his fourth game since coming off a 17-day, 14-game stay on the injured list, necessitated by a fractured bone in his left hand suffered when he was hit by a pitch on May 15.

He had gone 1-for-11 with a walk in the first three games and entered Monday batting .222 with a .628 OPS through 43 games this season, both the second-worst marks at that far into any of his 12 big-league campaigns. (He had a .626 OPS after 43 games in 2014 season and a .218 batting average after 43 games in 2017 season.)

Machado’s single was the Padres’ first hit, and he scored their first run when Sánchez hit a home run two batters later. With the Padres up 3-0 on back-to-back doubles by Matt Carpenter in the second inning, Machado also lined a two-out double in the third inning and scored on Jake Cronenworth’s single.

After that, Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who had a 1.83 ERA in his previous three starts against the Padres, retired the final 10 batters he faced to finish six innings.

In the eighth, with reliever Javier Assad working his second inning, Machado lined a one-out single to left field and was on third base following two walks when Matt Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly to the wall in center field to drive in the game’s final run.

Sánchez’s home run was his third in 19 at-bats with the Padres since he was claimed off waivers on May 29.

That gives him two fewer than Machado had in his 167 at-bats entering Monday’s game.

The Padres highest-paid player, who signed an 11-year, $350 million contract in February, Machado almost unquestionably their most valuable player in both of their recent playoff seasons. He was the runner-up in National League MVP voting in 2022 after batting .298 with an .898 OPS.

He has said several times that he is not worried, at one point reminding everyone the numbers on the back of his baseball card testified for where he would be at the end of the season.

If he, indeed, reached the career averages he carried into the season, then it will be quite a final 3½ months.

Machado, who also made two fine plays on defense Monday after having committed an error in the previous two games, has a tendency to go on almost incomparable tears once he heats up.

Another player who has something a history of heating up to the point of scorching and staying that way once summer hits is Snell.

While it’s not quite the point in the season he usually starts throwing up six- and seven-inning gems, Snell on Monday extended a scoreless streak to 16 innings.

He allowed two hits, walked three and struck out eight Monday after allowing three hits, walking three and striking out seven on Wednesday in Miami.

The Padres lost that game, in which Machado did not play, 2-1 when the Marlins scored twice against Josh Hader in the ninth inning. Sanchez’s home run in the third inning was one of two Padres hits that night.

As they did on Wednesday, Steven Wilson and Nick Martinez followed Snell with scoreless innings. Hader, who had not pitched since that game in Miami, was warming up when the Padres scored in the eighth. He sat down, and Tim Hill came in to finish off the game.