September 29, 2023

Just over 24 hours since the trade that changed the landscape of Major League Baseball, the newly minted San Diego Padres were in action in front of their fans. Newly acquired Josh Bell and Brandon Drury were both in the lineup, but, obviously, the main dish here — at least before the game started — was the Padres debut of 23-year-old superstar Juan Soto.

Soto finished second in the lineup, hitting ahead of MVP candidate Manny Machado and new cleanup man Bell.

The Padres would send their fans home extremely happy with a 9-1 victory. Soto wasn’t the star of the show at the plate and instead, it was the rest of the Padres’ lineup that showed how scary he can be around him. From before the game started until the end, it was a raucous event in San Diego. Those announced were 44,652, which is a sellout.

Eyewitness accounts described the atmosphere as “electric,” and Padres broadcasters remarked several times that it was perhaps the most amped they’d ever seen Petco Park. This was before the game even started.

Here’s Soto going to right for his first inning with the team.

He came to the plate with one out in the bottom of the first and the entire crowd was on its feet. Many fans are seen holding their phones to record the occasion. When Rockies pitcher Chad Kuhl homered to make it 3-0, he was booed before the Padres faithful turned to chants of “SOTO! SOTO! SOTO!”

Soto certainly had the green light on the aforementioned 3-0, but ball four wasn’t even close. His first plate appearance with the Padres was a walk.

Of course, this ride ended up being the catalyst for a huge turnout. After Soto’s walk, Machado doubled, Bell walked, Jake Cronenworth was hit by a pitch and then Drury, on his first pitch as a Padre, hit a grand slam:

That inning set the tone for the rest of the game. Machado would go 3 for 4 with a home run and double. Kronenworth drove home three runs. Trent Grisham had an RBI double. Bell was on base twice and scored both times.

Soto lined a single to right field for his first hit as a Padre in the bottom of the eighth.

He went 1 for 3 with two walks and a run scored. Even if overshadowed, this is a very good debut.

On the mound, Padres lefty Blake Snell continued his nice little run. In July, Snell went 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings. On Wednesday, he allowed just one run on four hits in six innings while striking out nine without a walk. He got into a bit of trouble in the third, but otherwise dominated.

Soto didn’t star in the game, but he didn’t need to. That’s the beauty of baseball. He pitched a perfect game while Machado, Cronenworth and Drury went wild. There will be games where Soto is the star. The point of getting Soto, Bell and Drury was to make the lineup as scary as possible. For the first day with the new look, mission accomplished.

The Padres have now won five straight and take the Rockies home again in a matinee Thursday before heading to LA for a three-game series against the first-place Dodgers.

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