The San Diego Padres pulled the upset in the series opener Friday night at Dodger Stadium, and rookie Manuel Margot stepped up when it mattered.
Few gave the Padres even a chance to pull the upset against the 81-34 Dodgers, as fans braced for an ugly end to the road trip. But thanks to a strong Clayton Richard start and well timed offensive bursts, the Friars are in the win column against their rivals to the north.
Especially notable was the power coming from rookie outfielder Manuel Margot. Hitting two home runs, he opened the scoring in the third with a shot to left center, and then tied the game in the seventh with a bomb to dead center.
Margot’s power jump started the Padres, an offense who was struggling to get anything going against Rich Hill. The club was limited to seven total hits and struggled to get on the board without the long ball. Margot’s two solo homers set the stage for Jose Pirela to hit the go ahead blast in the eighth, putting the Padres ahead 4-3 for good.
A win like this is very encouraging for multiple reasons. Most obviously, the strong pitching from not only Richard, who has struggled, but the bullpen is encouraging. This is especially true considering the Dodgers’ powerful lineup which hasn’t been slowed by pretty much anybody as of late.
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Also, the fact that the Padres could beat baseball’s best team without dominating offensively is promising. the team showed a lot of resilience on Friday night as they trailed on the road going into the seventh. Their comeback may have taken three solo homers, but they did just enough to get it done. Sometimes, ugly wins are the prettiest and most satisfying.
As for Margot, this showcase of power reveals just how elite of a player the rookie could become in this league. Just like other superstar centerfielders Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, Margot has the speed and defensive capabilities. While many wouldn’t expect him to have much pop in his bat, the little guy proved a lot of people wrong last night, showing that becoming a true five tool player is not out of the question.
The Padres look to continue their surprising success against the Dodgers on Saturday night, as Jhoulys Chacin will take the mound to oppose southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu. First pitch at Dodger Stadium is scheduled for 6:10 PM.