Soto cheered, Drury hits slam as Padres beat Rockies 9-1

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SAN DIEGO — The sellout crowd came to cheer Juan Soto in his first game with the San Diego Padres. It went bonkers when Brandon Drury hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw with his new team.

Feeding off the energy of Soto and the crowd, the new-look Padres routed the Colorado Rockies 9-1 on an electric Wednesday night at Petco Park. The crowd of 44,652 was animated even before the game started, and gave Soto a standing ovation as he ran out to his position in right field in the first inning, and then again when he came to the plate in the bottom of the inning. He drew a walk to start a five-run rally that was capped with Drury’s grand slam.

“It feels very cool. It brings a lot of emotions for me,” said Soto, the 23-year-old generational talent whose acquisition along with Josh Bell in a blockbuster trade with Washington gave a jolt to both the team and the city. “It feels amazing how they cheered for me. They gave us the energy to go out there and play hard.”

Manny Machado, who has carried the Padres most of the season, homered leading off the fifth and finished a triple short of the cycle in San Diego’s fifth straight win. Jake Cronenworth had a two-run shot. The big beneficiary was left-hander Blake Snell (4-5), who struck out nine in six innings and won his third straight start.

The Padres unveiled their new-look lineup with Soto batting second and Bell hitting cleanup a day after they were obtained Tuesday in one of the biggest deadline deals ever. Drury was also obtained on Tuesday, from Cincinnati, and put a charge into the already festive atmosphere with a grand slam off Chad Kuhl with one out in the first

Soto walked, Machado doubled and Bell walked to load the bases before Cronenworth was hit by a pitch to bring in Soto. Drury then drove the first pitch he saw from Kuhl into the seats in left-center and the fans went nuts. It was his second career grand slam and 21st homer this season.

“I was just running on adrenaline,” Drury said. “The fans were incredible tonight. First at-bat, bases loaded, I was just running on pure adrenaline. Really excited to be here. It was pretty special for me.”

Drury said he went out to stretch 25 minutes before the game “and the fans were just going nuts. I was out there warming up and I was just like pumped up, ready to go. It was definitely an amazing day.”

During the pre-game hitters’ meeting, Melvin told the players, “It’s going to be like this. It really has been all been all year. When you bring in guys like this, it takes it to a different level. We just wanted to let them know that this is going to be pretty cool.

“Before we even took the field it was,” Melvin said “It seemed like the place was packed even before the game started. It was rare.”

Soto singled, walked twice, scored once and grounded out twice. Bell had two walks and scored twice.

Melvin said Soto “seems to bring some energy. You see him backing up first base on ground balls; there’s just a lot he brings to the table. Obviously on base, what he does swinging the bat. The fans seemed to embrace very quickly. He’s just one of those guys who has a lot of energy around him and I think everybody felt that today.”

Snell had a third straight strong start. He held the Rockies to one run and four hits in six innings, with no walks. His four wins this season have come in his last five starts. After receiving just 15 runs of support in his first 11 starts, he has received 19 runs of support in his last two starts.

Kuhl (6-7) allowed nine runs and eight hits in five innings, struck out four and walked three.

UP NEXT

Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (6-7, 4.63 ERA) and Padres RHP Joe Musgrove (8-4, 2.65) are scheduled to start Thursday afternoon when San Diego goes for a five-game sweep.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.