The San Diego Padres were punched in the mouth by the upstart Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the NLCS, as a well-pitched game by Yu Darvish was squandered by a dismal offensive performance. Star trade acquisition Juan Soto and Manny Machado needed to make plays to even this series up at 1-1.
It took all of two innings before this team hit another rough patch. Southpaw starter Blake Snell found himself in a dangerous situation against the bottom of Philadelphia’s batting order. Rather than wiggle out of the jam, Snell was let down by his corner outfield defense.
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead thanks to a throwing error from Soto earlier in the inning. Alec Bohm already dunked the ball into right for a single, but a poor throw allowed the Phillies’ third baseman to advance to second. That’s where things really got crazy.
Soto followed that sterling performance up by losing a Matt Vierling fly ball in the California sun. Philadelphia took a 2-0 lead before an Edmundo Sosa single and Kyle Schwarber groundout made it a 4-0 advantage. At least Brandon Drury and Josh Bell picked up the slack with a pair of dingers.
Juan Soto’s error helped the San Diego Padres fall behind.
While Soto went through a bit of a cold spell in late August following his midseason trade, he looked like the same dominant hitter with unmatched plate discipline we saw in Washington to close out the season. He’s come through with his fair share of big playoff hits against the Mets and Dodgers.
While Soto is regarded as having an above-average outfield arm, his overall defense has been the subject of much ridicule dating back to his Nationals tenure. There was a period of time where his fielding WAR and Outs Above Average ranked at the very bottom of the league.
With Snell established as a pitcher who very rarely goes deep into games and the Phillies’ lineup now having a new burst of energy as a result of Soto’s misplay, the Padres are now in danger of dropping the first two games of the series at home.
Soto is going to be the main piece of San Diego’s next decade of baseball, but this team will never be a no-doubt contender every year unless Soto finds a way to clean up his outfield defense. The Padres have dug themselves out of postseason holes before, but this one may be too deep.