SAN DIEGO — The Padres won’t have an All-Star infielder in 2023, which they’ll say is odd, because they feel Kim Ha-sun is well worth it.
And he probably has. (More on Kim later.) But what really makes it weird? The Padres are using Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts and Jake Cronenworth as infielders. All three were named All-Stars in 2021 and 2022. All three were then heavily paid before the 2023 season.
Of course, the first half of the 2023 season was completely underwhelming in San Diego. Aside from Tuesday’s 8-5 victory over the Angels, the Padres will enter the All-Star break with a batting average of .500 or less. Each of these three all-time All-Stars has posted numbers well below their career averages.
It’s not ideal. But at least it made the Padres’ path to a second-half comeback clear enough. If that trio could mash as their track record shows…
“It’s going to be good for us,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said.
On a sunny Fourth of July afternoon when the Padres defeated Shohei Ohtani, it certainly felt possible in a packed Petco Park. Cronenworth doubled in each of his first two at-bats, then backed up with Bogaerts in the sixth. It was the first time a teammate had taken Ohtani deep back-to-back in a major, and the Angels superstar was quickly dismissed with a blister on his finger.
It was Bogaerts’ second home run of the game, and he went 2-for-3 (1 walk). Neither of these two had as many base hits as Machado, who had three hits in three at bats, including walks. He showed offensive power against one of the best pitchers of the game.
“It’s always fun to take a challenge and play against a player as good as him, probably the greatest player of all time,” Cronenworth said. “It’s always a fun match to get the chance to play against a player like that.”
Cronenworth, who hadn’t faced Ohtani until Tuesday, became the first player to slug out Ohtani three times in a major league game. Cronenworth, once a two-way player in the Rays system, would have had a unique appreciation of Ohtani’s talent.
“Yes, but not very well,” said Cronenworth with a laugh. “He’s one of the best hitters in baseball and one of the best pitchers in baseball. No one else can say that.”
So perhaps Tuesday provided just the breakout Cronenworth was looking for.
“When you play against pretty good pitchers … you see a little bit of confidence building up,” Melvin said. “He’s come back a little bit better and the bat is in the zone a little bit longer. I hope this is a really good game for him to cheer him up.”
So did Bogaerts and Machado, who suffered injuries in the first half. Both had shown signs of breakouts recently. And on Tuesday, they became the first teammates to hit three in the same game.
“That’s obviously the level me and him want to play at,” Bogaerts said. “We know it’s possible, and we can do more.”
It was enough support for Joe Musgrove, but the Angels allowed 11 strikeouts in seven dominant innings. The Padres’ bullpen wobbled in the ninth as newly promoted left-hander José Castillo gave up four runs and Melvin demanded a closer. Josh Hader.
Hader also appeared on Monday, raising questions about his position in Wednesday’s series finale. Hader had yet to start three straight games with Padre, and Melvin was clearly trying to avoid him.
“You know?” Melvin later said. “It’s better than losing the game.”
Hader wasn’t very sharp either, walking the bases loaded to bring the winning run to the plate. Taylor Ward then threw a clumsy spinner over the mound. Kim Byung-hyun charged to second base and finished the game with a great running play.
Kim had an above-average 11 outs on Tuesday to lead the entire National League defense into the game. Five innings before that, he played equally well against a batted ball that hit Cronenworth’s glove on the first base side. He coolly knocks it over, picks it up and fires it back at Cronenworth for an out.
“I think he’s the best defender in the game,” Melvin said. “I think a lot of his numbers suggest that.
#Star #Trio #excited #Ohtani