MLB Mexico City Series: An Offensive Explosion Powers Padres Past Giants 16-11

Juan Soto congratulates Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres after his solo home-run during the fifth inning of the MLB World Tour Mexico City Series against the San Francisco Giants at Alfredo Harp Helú Stadium. Soto followed up Tatis’ homer with a solo shot of his own. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Classic

MEXICO CITY – In a small ballpark at a high altitude, the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants put on a three hour, 48-minute offensive fireworks display.

Even the pitch clock couldn’t make the first game of MLB’s Mexico City Series between the Padres and the Giants move faster, and several of the 12 pitchers who appeared in the game may have nightmares for years to come.

But it is what it is – in the Major Leagues, the players are bigger, faster, and stronger, and in a bandbox of a stadium where the ball will go and go and keep going and then it’s gone, 11 baseballs went to their reward on Saturday night as the Padres bats finally awoke, powering a 16-11 victory that included 11 home runs combined by both teams, including three pairs of back-to-back round-trippers, two by the Padres and one by the Giants.

“I had a chance to go out during batting practice and see the ball fly. I asked a few players about, you know, Is it real? Is it carrying?’ And the answer to that question was, ‘Yes.’ The ball got in the air, and it was gonna go far,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said after the game. “It was as advertised – or not. It was even more of a hitter-friendly environment.”

With a 1-2 count in the top of the third, Brandon Crawford turned on a slider from Padres starter Joe Musgrove and took it down the line, where it barely cleared the wall and appeared to hit the foul pole. Crawford rounded the bases after first base umpire Brian O’Nora signaled a home run. After a video review, Crawford went back to the plate and sent Musgrove’s next offering, a curveball, to the left field power alley for the first homer of the game. 

Lamont Wade Jr. followed Crawford, torching Musgrove’s 3-2 four-seamer into the right field seats for the first pair of back-to-back home runs of the game. 

Not to be outdone, Juan Soto and Xander Bogaerts went back-to-back with solo homers for San Diego in the fourth, and then Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado went back-to-back in the bottom of the fifth – Tatis hitting a two-run shot and Machado touching them all by his lonesome.

Before the game, Padres manager Bob Melvin was asked if, perhaps, something like this – something out of the ordinary, a different atmosphere – could help to spark the Padres offense, which had been somewhat anemic over the last two weeks

“I’d hope so, it is a little different atmosphere, and in theory, there’ll probably be some runs scored,” Melvin said. “I’ve thought about that some too, that maybe being a place that jumpstarts our offense, because we’ve underachieved to this point.”

With 16 runs and 17 hits in the game, perhaps a visit to Mexico City was more of a torch than a spark. The Padres leaned into the culture of their home for two games, bringing a sombrero and a luchador mask into the dugout for home run celebrations.

For both managers, the challenge wasn’t the thin air or fast turf, but managing the pitching staff. 

“I think when Sean (Manaea) took a line drive off the knee, we knew it was going to be a challenge just to get through the game,” Kapler said. “The Padres had a similar approach. It was just, you’re going to your guys and looking to extend a pitcher and not go through the entire bullpen. It’s hard to be efficient in this environment.” 

Manaea stayed in the game after Austin Nola’s comebacker hit him hard on the right knee in the bottom of the second, but left after facing two batters in the third, forcing Kapler to go to the pen early.

In the other dugout, Melvin only got 3.1 innings out of Joe Musgrove, who made his second start of the year.

“We didn’t want to put anybody in a position where they’re throwing thirty-plus pitches in an inning, all while trying to pay attention to see if the opposition is lined up, and try to extend to the roster,” Kapler said. 

But one pitcher will take away a great memory from this game. Padres reliever Tom Cosgrove, who entered the game in the top of the eight, made his MLB debut and got the win, and only needed a third of an inning, getting Joc Pederson to ground out to end the inning. 

NOTEBOOK: Giants starter Sean Manaea took a comebacker off the knee in the bottom of the second, but stayed in the game. Kapler said Manaea has a right knee contusion. … Brandon Crawford left the game with a tight calf muscle, and will be reevaluated in the morning.  

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