Bats strike early and often as Padres hang on for win over Rockies

Tribune Content Agency

DENVER — Manny Machado raised his right hand over his head as his first-inning drive cleared the oversized wall in right-center field. His smile widened as he rounded first base as the home-run ball came to a rest in Coors Field’s home bullpen.

It was the picture of what it should feel like to swing away at Coors Field.

By the end of their 9-6 win over the Colorado Rockies on Friday, the Padres were breathing a sigh of relief as a five-homer game stood up long enough to hand Yu Darvish his 100th win in the majors.

That’s not all that was notable for a $247 million team still looking to live up to expectations.

It was the first time the Padres had scored more than one run in consecutive games since May 28-30. It was also the first time they’d won back-to-back games since May 25-26; another win on Saturday would mark their first three-game winning streak since April 29-May 1.

They’ve yet to do better than that this season.

But you’ve got to start somewhere, and perhaps the opposite-field approach that fueled the getaway day win over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday was, indeed, the start of something.

After all, Machado’s blast was an opposite-field job on the first pitch he saw from Austin Gomber in the first inning and Trent Grisham added a solo shot to left field to open the second, especially noteworthy as the Padres arrived at the high-altitude environment.

“You just have to stay short as we’ve been doing,” said Juan Soto, whose first-inning single to right extended his streak to hits in seven straight at-bats. “We have to keep doing the same thing, stay short, hit the ball the other way and don’t think you’re in Coors Field trying to hit the ball 500 feet.

“Just keep the same approach.”

That’s not to say the Padres didn’t flex their pull-side power.

That’s Gary Sanchez’s specialty, and he followed Grisham’s solo shot in the second with a two-run shot to left, his fifth in 10 games since joining the Padres.

Or as many as Austin Nola has in his last 525 plate appearances with the Padres.

Four innings later, Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a 425-foot homer to left-center, trumped only in distance by Brandon Dixon’s 430-foot shot to straightaway center to answer the Rockies’ lone extended rally of the game.

Xander Bogaerts doubled to left-center in his first at-bat returning from his wrist injury and had two hits through his first four at-bats.

Jake Cronenworth finished with three hits after his ninth-inning triple split the left-center alley, and Tatis, Soto and Machado all had two hits in getting off to a good start in a place that had especially haunted the Padres over the last two years.

Not only were they 5-14 here since the start of 2021, Machado’s MVP bid all but unraveled when his left ankle gave out beneath him at first base last June.

Perhaps that was one reason to be all smiles as he rounded first base.

Then again, the home run was his first since returning from the small break in his hand and his first since May 9.

All that offense made it that much easier for Darvish to navigate his way through the high altitude, not to mention frequent sticky-stuff checks from umpires early in the start.

He was two outs away from a quality start, too, but Mike Moustakas’ one-out single put runners on first and second in the sixth, Randall Grichuk chased Darvish with a run-scoring double and pinch-hitter Elehuris Montero singled into the right-field corner off Tom Cosgrove to cut the Padres’ lead to 8-4.

The rally might have continued but Tatis’ strike to second base cut down Montero for his fifth assist this season, the most in the majors since returning from his suspension on April 20.

Darvish struck out six but walked four in allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings in earning his 100th victory in the majors since making his debut with the Texas Rangers in April 2012.

After Cosgrove pitched a scoreless seventh, Nick Martinez allowed a two-run homer to Moustakas in the eighth, forcing Josh Hader to survive a scoreless ninth for his 14th save despite after putting two on with two outs.

Elias Diaz grounded out to end the game representing the tying run.