Before Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton and Anthony Bemboom clubbed second-inning homers on the way to the Angels’ 5-2 victory at Petco Park, Manny Machado gave the groups of San Diego Padres fans gathered on the rooftop decks of two high-rise buildings overlooking the stadium something to celebrate.
The Padres third baseman clobbered a two-out double in the first inning, his hit glancing off the left-field wall to breathe life into an offense that was neutralized by the Angels’ maligned pitching staff a night earlier.
The fans — among the fortunate few across the country able to watch live baseball from venues adjacent to MLB ballparks — might as well have been bellowing “M-V-P!” from their posts roughly 1,000 feet away, as they did in a later at-bat. Machado scored within moments on Eric Hosmer's two-run homer, which gave the Padres a 2-0 lead. It was the 43rd time in 56 games that Machado had crossed home plate. He entered Wednesday’s game ranked among the top 10 in runs.
It wasn’t enough to lift a Padres team that fears it lost starter Mike Clevinger, their big trade deadline acquisition, for the postseason. Clevinger pitched the first inning Wednesday but left the game because of biceps tightness that had caused him to skip his previous start. The Padres were awaiting MRI results after the game.
Machado’s hit gave a glimpse of the explosive player the Padres signed in February 2019 to a 10-year, $300-million contract.
Machado, a four-time All-Star who played briefly for the Dodgers and drew intense scrutiny while helping them to the World Series in 2018, has shined for a Padres club that will finish with a winning record for the first time since 2010. Machado has batted .380 (49 for 129) with eight doubles, one triple, 11 home runs and 34 RBIs since Aug. 17.
Yet he hasn’t been the Padre grabbing national attention as his team has roared into postseason contention during the last month and ended a 13-year playoff drought. That honor has gone mostly to Fernando Tatís Jr., who entered Wednesday’s game ranked third in MLB with 2.9 wins above replacement.
But Tatís' bat has slowed through September and he was given a day off Wednesday. Machado, meanwhile, remained one of baseball’s most productive hitters.
“I feel like he’s been as dangerous, if not the most dangerous impactful player on the field,” manager Jayce Tingler said. “At least when we go into games and series, I feel that he has been as dominant a threat on both sides as anybody I’ve seen on the West Coast.”
Machado had 21 multihit games entering Wednesday, tied for most in MLB. His 16 homers matched the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts for second-most in the National League. Only four players outpaced him on the RBIs leaderboard, where he sat with 47 following the Padres’ loss.
And his ever solid defense has remained so. He has an Ultimate Zone Rating of 2.8, fourth-best among third basemen with more than 304 innings and second in the NL behind perennial Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado (6.7 UZR). Machado also has saved seven runs on defense, good enough to rank tied for eighth among all MLB fielders.
“Manny’s got such a unique ability . . . the ability to slow down,” Tingler said. “He makes fast plays and he’s able to do it at what feels like a slower speed. I mean that defensively, I mean that with his decision-making after he catches the ball, I mean that as he’s in the batter’s box and he’s facing 98-99. Just the ability to slow the game down is probably as good as I’ve seen.”
1. Angels starter Patrick Sandoval went 17 MLB outings without a win before securing the first of his career Wednesday. He pitched three scoreless, two-hit innings and struck out five in relief of starter Jaime Barria. Sandoval credited his recent success — opponents were nine for 43 in his last three outings — to an improved ability to rein in his emotions on the mound.
2. David Fletcher’s three-hit game raised his season total to 61. The super-utility man has batted .327 since returning from an ankle sprain Sept. 12.
3. Even after a two-game sweep of the Padres, the Angels’ playoff chances are less than 2%, according to Fangraphs. But manager Joe Maddon has remained optimistic. His team has won eight of 11. Maddon was asked what the win could do for Sandoval, who missed part of training camp because of COVID-19 and was temporarily optioned to the alternate site after giving up 16 earned runs in four August starts. And Maddon replied, “Once we get to the playoffs and he does that next, I'll be really happy with what he takes with him in the winter time.”