Rougned Odor homers to win Padres Series vs. Nationals

WASHINGTON – The Padres have taken their share of the blows in the first 50 games of the season. However, nothing quite like the seventh inning on Thursday. The Nationals hit seven consecutive hits to score five runs, leaving the Friars stunned.

Two innings later, the Padres stared at the prospect of losing a sixth straight – and a third straight against a team in last place. They were five games under .500 and on the brink of their worst loss of the year. It’s only the end of May. But was it possible that their season was faltering?

On a superstar-studded 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 as of late. Sure enough, Odor launched a go-ahead three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning, giving San Diego a remarkable 8-6 win at Nationals Park.

“Someone has to get it going,” Odor said afterward. “I am that man. Now we go.”

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

“Yeah, it wasn’t the best game,” said Jake Cronenworth, whose opening single kicked off the winning rally. “But what we did in the ninth inning, to come back, string together a bunch of good at bats — that’s something we just have to hang on to.”

Cronenworth started the ninth with a ferocious eight-pitch battle against Nats close Hunter Harvey. He fouled three consecutive two-strike offers—one of which was such a defensive swing that he nearly knocked out Juan Soto in the circle on deck.

After Cronenworth singled, Soto followed. Soto walked in each of his first four at bats, but when Harvey hung up a splitter, Soto ripped him to the right. In his second trip to DC since last summer’s trade, Soto finished the week reaching base in 11 of 14 at bats – including seven on a walk. But don’t let his patience fool you.

“I tell myself, ‘Always aggressive,’ Soto said. ‘I take walks. But at the end of the day I take walks, because those fields are balls. I don’t go for walks because I want to. I want to bat to wave.

Soto’s single put men in first and second with no one out as the Padres continued their recent trend – heck, it’s no longer just a trend at this point – of not converting with runners in scoring position. Xander Bogaerts and Matt Carpenter struckout, dropping the team to .182 in RISP situations this season.

Up stepped Odor, given the increased playing time recently in the absence of Manny Machado. Geur got a 99 mph fastball on the inside half, spun on it and deposited it into the right field bullpen. In their past 11 games, the Padres have conceded just three hits with men in scoring position scoring multiple runs. Fragrance has all three.

“He’s a winner,” Soto said.

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

Of course, the Padres still have plenty of question marks. They didn’t fix their RISP woes and finished Thursday’s game 3-for-16 in such situations. Their bullpen, which had been dominant lately, disintegrated in the seventh.

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

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

The Padres were leading 5-1 in the seventh when things began to spiral. Tim Hill and Nick Martinez combined for seven consecutive hits to start the seventh, though Martinez managed to stop the bleeding. The inning ended when catcher Brett Sullivan made an incredible jumping tap to get Alex Call’s spike after a ball got away in the sand. The deficit remained one.

Of course, any Padres shortfall has felt huge lately, no matter the number. The Padres had not overcome a deficit to win a game since May 5. They stranded Brandon Dixon after his opening double in the eighth. They appeared to be on the verge of stranding two more in the ninth.

But Odor – now with a slash of .409/.480/.818 since the day after Machado’s injury – firmly believed that things would change. He homered in Wednesday’s loss and later said it would only take “one game” to initiate that change.

He brought it up a day later.

“I said so,” said Odor. “It takes one game to get going. Let’s see tomorrow.”

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