Juan Soto promises to bring ‘good vibes,’ winning to Padres

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SAN DIEGO — Juan Soto arrived at Petco Park promising to bring “good vibes” to the San Diego Padres and issuing a warning to opposing teams.

The acquisition of the 23-year-old generational talent in perhaps the biggest deadline deal ever energized the Padres and their long-suffering fans, and there’s more to come.

Soto and Josh Bell on Wednesday joined a lineup currently anchored by All-Star slugger Manny Machado. Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is expected to return from a broken left wrist within a few weeks.

When that lineup hits the field, “It’s going to be really exciting. It’s going to be really tough to go through and I wish good luck to the other pitchers,” Soto said with a laugh at an introductory news conference.

The Colorado Rockies needed it in their first look at the new Padres on Wednesday night.

Soto, acquired from Washington in a massive trade along with switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell, walked on four pitches in his first at-bat. Machado doubled behind him, Bell also walked and then lesser-known deadline pickup Brandon Drury – acquired from Cincinnati amid a breakout season – crushed a grand slam.

The group posed together for a Polaroid photo in the dugout after rounding the bases – the signature celebration for the club known as Slam Diego.

The price for Soto and Bell was significant: rookie left-hander MacKenzie Gore, first baseman/DH Luke Voit and prospects James Wood, C.J. Abrams, Robert Hassell III and Jarlin Susana.

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo set a lofty asking price last month after reports emerged that Soto rejected the team’s latest contract offer of $440 million over 15 years.

The uncertainty over his future began weighing on Soto, who said after Sunday’s game against St. Louis: “I just want to get it over with and see what’s going to happen. Start over here or wherever I’m at.”

That place is San Diego, where the Padres entered Wednesday holding the NL’s second wild-card spot while trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by 11 1/2 games in the NL West.

Soto, one of the game’s best young hitters, said he was happy Bell was included in the trade. The two were flown to San Diego on a private jet Tuesday night.

“For me, I never realized I was going to be traded together. I was thinking probably by myself,” Soto said. “When I realized I was coming with Josh, we have a great relationship and I was more excited and more pumped because he’s coming and I know what kind of guy he is and what he brings to the table. I’m more than excited to share another clubhouse with him.”

Soto contributed to the Nationals’ first World Series title in 2019 and then hit .351 in 2020 to win the NL batting title. He’s in his second straight All-Star season, and now he and Bell have joined a team whose playoff chances vaulted big-time.

Soto said all the conversations with Padres general manager A.J. Preller and his new teammates have been, “Let’s win, let’s bring the good energy to the clubhouse and the stadium, just come here and try to win. Try to bring my experience from 2019 as a World Series champ to here in San Diego.

“That’s what I’m going to do, that’s what I have in my mind since I saw the trade yesterday. That’s what we’re going to try to do, try to make it all the way to the last team standing.”

Soto thinks he’s joining a World Series contender.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “This team has everything that it needs to win a World Series.”

San Diego last played in the World Series in 1998, when it was swept by the New York Yankees.

Soto is under contract for two seasons beyond this year and said he’s not thinking about anything after that.

“I’m just thinking about winning,” he said. “I’m just coming to this clubhouse to bring the energy that I have, all the good vibes that I have to bring here, to win.”

Soto and Bell are coming from the team with baseball’s worst record to one that has vaulted its postseason chances.

“It feels really nice,” Soto said. “It feels really pumped to be here. Just go from a team that has no chance to come all the way here, it’s a great feeling, a new vibe, it’s a new start for me. It’s a new start, a new feeling to go out there and give more than I have.”

Said Bell: “Obviously we pour our hearts and souls into this game no matter where we are. … But it’s a little bit extra fuel in the fire to be here and to be in the hunt and to have a reason to show up a little bit earlier every day to get the work done that we need to get done. I’m definitely pumped to have a new opportunity here.”

Soto and Tatis, who’s also 23, have known each other since playing together in the Dominican Prospect League.

“That’s my boy, my hometown boy,” Tatis said on Tuesday. “I mean, we played together since we were 15, 16. And now we’re on the same team. It’s crazy.”

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).