Rougned Odor homers to give Padres series win vs. Nationals

Rougned Odor homers to give Padres series win vs. Nationals

WASHINGTON — The Padres have taken their share of punches through the first 50 games of the season. However, no one likes meeting seven on Thursday. The Nationals hit seven straight to score five runs, leaving the Friars stunned.

Two games later, the Padres stared at the prospect of losing a sixth straight series — and a third straight to a last-place team. They sat five games below .500 and were on the verge of their worst losing streak of the year. It’s only the end of May. But was it possible that their season was at its peak?

On a superstar-laden team with the largest payroll in franchise history, it’s Odor — a Minor League signing this spring — who has become the Padres’ most reliable hitter of late. Sure enough, Odor hit the ground running with a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning, sending San Diego to a remarkable 8-6 victory at Nationals Park.

“Someone has to start it,” Odor said afterward. “That boy is me. Now let’s go.”

The Padres can only hope this was the win that gets their season going in the right direction.

“Yeah, it wasn’t the best game,” said Jake Cronenworth, whose leadoff single sparked the game-winning rally. “But what we did in the ninth inning, to come back, putting together a bunch of quality at-bats — that’s something we just have to catch up to.”

Cronenworth started the ninth with a wild eight-pitch battle against Nats closer Hunter Harvey. He threw away three straight two-strike bids — one of which was such a defensive swing that he nearly took out Juan Soto in the on-deck circle.

After Cronenworth’s single, Soto followed suit. Soto walked in each of his first four plate appearances, but when Harvey hung a splitter, Soto ripped it to right. In his second trip to D.C. since last summer’s trade, Soto finished the week by reaching base in 11 of 14 plate appearances — including seven walks. But don’t let his patience fool you.

“I tell myself, ‘Aggressive all the time,'” Soto said. “I take walks. But at the end of the day, I take walks because those pitches are balls. I’m not hiking because I want to. I want to swing the bat.”

Soto’s single put men on first and second with nobody out as the Padres continued their recent trend — heck, at this point, it’s not just a trend anymore — of failing to convert with runners in scoring position . Xander Bogaerts and Matt Carpenter struck out, lowering the team to .182 in RISP situations this season.

The wind picked up, given the increased playing time recently in Manny Machado’s absence. Wind took a 99 mph fastball in the infield, turned it on and planted it in the right field pole. In their last 11 games, the Padres have gotten just three hits with men in scoring position scoring multiple runs. The wind has all three.

“He’s a winner,” Soto said.

“You feel good when he’s at the plate right now,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “He is not afraid of any situation.”

The Padres, of course, still have plenty of question marks to address. They haven’t solved their RISP issues, finishing Thursday’s game 3-for-16 in such situations. Their streak, which had been dominant of late, unraveled in the seventh.

But it’s better to face those question marks after a win – perhaps their most exciting win of their season.

“That’s what good teams do,” Soto said. “We just keep fighting. Even when we’re in trouble, we have to go out there and keep fighting.”

The Padres led 5-1 in the seventh when things started to spiral. Tim Hill and Nick Martinez combined to allow seven straight hits to start the seventh, though Martinez managed to stop the bleeding. The game ended when pitcher Brett Sullivan made an incredible leap to pick off Alex Call’s strikeout after a ground ball had bounced away. The deficit remained one.

Of course, any Padres deficit has felt massive lately, no matter the number. The Padres hadn’t overcome a deficit to win a game since May 5. They blocked Brandon Dixon after his leadoff double in the eighth. They appeared to be on the verge of stranding the other two in the ninth.

But Odor — now with a slash line of .409/.480/.818 since the day after Machado’s injury — has been steadfast in his belief that things would turn around. He bounced back in Wednesday’s loss and later said it would only take “one game” to spark that turnaround.

A day later he brought it.

“I said it,” Odor said. “It takes a game to start. See you tomorrow.”

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