Odor lifts Padres over Nats, sweeten Soto’s return

In Juan Soto's return to D.C., the San Diego Padres (23-27) take the series against the Washington Nationals (21-29) thanks to Rougned Odor's clutch hitting.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over 2,200 miles from “America’s Finest City,” the Padres embarked on an East Coast road trip beginning in the nation’s capital. Set for three games against the Washington Nationals, San Diego was looking to improve their recently mediocre play while also providing a pleasant homecoming for Juan Soto, playing back at Nationals Park where his MLB career originated.

Coming off of losing two of three contests to the Boston Red Sox, the Padres severely needed a pick-me-up game. Naturally, Soto was the lightning rod that San Diego was looking for in Game 1 on Tuesday night. With Yu Darvish going six strong innings (allowing three earned runs), Soto was 3-4 with a solo home run and two runs scored. Infielders Xander Bogaerts and Jake Cronenworth also did well to make up for the injured-Manny Machado (glove hand, 10-day IL), combining for four RBI. Ultimately, the Padres won Game 1 by a score of 7-4 after Josh Hader’s near-flawless ninth inning.

Game 1 line (Tue. May 23) – Padres 7 (12 hits, no errors), Nationals 4 (nine hits, no errors). W: Yu Darvish (3-3). L: Erasmo Ramirez (2-2). S: Josh Hader (12).

Game 2 from the District did not go nearly as well for the Friars, especially from an offensive perspective. San Diego only managed to score in two different frames, logging a total of four hits in the bid. Lefties Rougned Odor and Ha-Seong Kim each blasted a home run for the Padres, but that was the only scoring. Meanwhile, starting pitcher Ryan Weathers was clubbed around by the Nationals’ youth. Washington did not score after the fourth frame, but it was enough to beat San Diego, 5-3.

Game 2 line (Wed. May 24) – Nationals 5 (nine hits, no errors), Padres 3 (four hits, three errors). W: Trevor Williams (2-2). L: Ryan Weathers (1-3).

Set for a rubber match on Thursday, the Friars and Nats got underway at 4:05 EST, which meant early baseball for those of us on the West Coast. Pertaining to the Padres, they entered D.C. with a dismal 1-6 record (defeating only Cincinnati) in third game rubber matches this season. At the same time, San Diego had lost five consecutive series; Even in May, there needed to be more urgency from the brown & gold side.

The Nationals got on the board first in Thursday’s matinee. In the opening frame, Washington designated hitter Joey Meneses produced an RBI single to commence the action. However, the Padres answered right back in the top of the second: Trent Grisham smashed an opposite-field homer with Brandon Dixon aboard at first base. That made the score 2-1 San Diego.

It should be noted that Dixon was the runner during Grisham’s home run because he hit for Ha-Seong Kim after the latter fouled a pitch off his left knee. Unfortunately, Kim was forced to exit the game.

After completion of the second frame on Thursday, the offensive action slowed down some. Snell threw the ball efficiently and fellow starting pitcher Jake Irvin went four full innings surrendering only two hits and two runs. 

Washington went to the bullpen to begin the fifth inning when Fernando Tatis Jr. followed by Soto (who walked for MLB-high 47th time) quickly yielded runners aboard. Next, Tatis Jr.’s active antics leading-off second base drew a balk out of relief pitcher Andres Machado–that put two runners in scoring position with only one out.

Bogaerts was the next hitter and he delivered by smashing a line-drive single into center field, bringing in Tatis Jr. to score the third run for San Diego. Matt Carpenter followed by striking out, but Odor was right behind him to pick up the team. With two on and two out, Odor slapped an extra base hit into left, plating two both runners in the process. The Padres’ rally ended there, but in a flash, it was 5-1 San Diego.

In the bottom half of the fifth, Snell loaded the bases with just one out. Still, he stayed cool and struck out Stone Garrett and Dominic Smith in succession to escape the jam. That brought Snell to precisely 99 pitches through five complete innings, and ultimately ended his day allowing only four hits and one earned run (6 K/4 BB).

Still up 5-1, the sixth frame was quiet from both sides. Now, unchallenged victories have been rare for the Padres this season. Right on cue, the seventh served as a house of horrors for San Diego. Coincidentally, the first seven hitters of the inning all reached base – against relievers Tim Hill and Nick Martinez – on clean hits for Washington, most of which were singles. 

Either way, it resulted in a carousel five-run rally, giving the Nationals their first lead of the afternoon. It could have been worse if not for an incredibly athletic play at home plate from Brett Sullivan to nab another would-be run. Headed to the eighth inning, Washington was leading 6-5.

Earning his second hit since entering the game for Kim, Dixon led-off the eighth for San Diego with a double slashed down the left field line. Unfortunately, the Friars strung together three unproductive outs in sequence to strand Dixon aboard second base.

After nothing else from the Nats on offense, Cronenworth started the ninth frame with a single into center field. One pitch later, Soto did the same to right field–that brought the go-ahead run to the plate for San Diego. With Bogaerts in the batter’s box, Washington closer Hunter Harvey struck him out swinging–Carpenter followed to have the same fate.

Down to two on and two out in the ninth, Odor stepped up and hammered a 98 mph fastball from Harvey over the right field wall for a three-run homer. Miraculously, the Padres jumped back ahead 8-6 as the air was sucked out of the small crowd on-hand at Nationals Park–ya gotta love baseball. From there, Dixon flew out to end the Padres’ threat.

In the bottom half of the ninth, Josh Hader was lights-out like he was on Tuesday night, retiring Washington in-order and earning his 13th save of the season (which is currently tied for second in the Majors). In thrilling comeback fashion, the Friars stole the game (and the series), 8-6.

For Odor, the ninth-inning blast collected his fifth RBI of the game, and second homer in as many days. Additionally, Odor had seven total RBI in the series versus Washington.

Game 3 line (Thu. May 25) – Padres 8 (nine hits, two errors), Nationals 6 (twelve hits, one error). W: Drew Carlton (1-0). L: Hunter Harvey (2-2). S: Josh Hader (13).

Next, the Padres will see a rematch of the 1998 World Series as they head to the Bronx to battle the New York Yankees (who are in action Thursday night versus Baltimore). Projected starters for Friday, May 26 are Joe Musgrove and Randy Vasquez, the latter of which making his MLB debut. Last visiting in 2019, this will be San Diego’s first trip of the decade to Yankee Stadium.

Padres’ record against Washington
2023: 2-1
2022: 4-3
2021: 4-3
All-time: 239-265