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Padres put up nine-run inning in win over Red Sox


Padres put up nine-run inning in win over Red Sox

BOSTON — The Padres were scoreless in the top of the fifth inning when Ha-Seong Kim came to the plate to open the frame.

About 22 minutes later, when Kim’s turn came around again, it was still the fifth inning, there were still no outs, the bases were again empty — and San Diego had a nine-spot on the Fenway Park scoreboard.

Indeed, the Padres strung together an all-timer of a fifth inning in their 9-2 series-opening victory over the Red Sox on Friday. They began the inning thusly:

Nine hitters. Nine runs scored.

“That’s definitely the best possible result we can have,” said Higashioka, whose moonshot over the Green Monster marked his eighth home run of the month. “It’s just important in those situations to not let up, try to build as big a lead as possible.”

The Padres became the first team since the 2015 Blue Jays — coincidentally, also against the Red Sox in Boston — to score nine times with their first nine hitters in an inning (meaning all nine runs scored before their second trip through the lineup). Toronto did so on June 12 of that season, capped by Justin Smoak’s three-run homer.

On Friday, it was Merrill — a childhood Red Sox fan playing his first game at Fenway Park — who provided the exclamation point. Merrill went with a thigh-high fastball on the outer half and launched it a Statcast-projected 407 feet just to the left of straightaway center.

“I don’t usually like to talk about something I do,” Merrill said. “I like talking about the wins and stuff. But that was probably the dopest moment of my baseball career.”

It marked just the third time in Padres history that they’d scored at least nine runs in an inning before recording an out. Kim’s ensuing strikeout meant they wouldn’t quite equal a club record. On May 31, 1994, the Padres scored 10 times before their first out, en route to a franchise-record 13-run inning against the Pirates.

Nonetheless, the Padres were on their way to an eighth win in their past nine games. At 45-41, San Diego sits four games above .500 for the first time all season.

In a cluttered National League Wild Card picture, the Padres are doing their best to find separation. More than half the league is vying for the final couple playoff places. As of the final out Friday, San Diego held sole possession of the second NL Wild Card spot, a half-game ahead of St. Louis and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Mets.

“This game’s about consistency over everything else,” Higashioka said. “… That’s going to be the pathway to the playoffs, if we can get there.”

Right-hander Randy Vásquez had worked four innings of one-run ball, when the Padres hung their nine-spot on the board. To start the bottom of the frame, Vásquez was struck by a 97.6 mph line drive off the bat of Boston shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela.

Vásquez would promptly exit the game alongside a team trainer, though X-rays came back negative and he expressed optimism that he would be able to make his next start. On a night that almost everything went the Padres’ way, manager Mike Shildt had one lament:

“That was a shame,” Shildt said of Vásquez’s exit. “Because this guy was pitching really well.”

Shildt pieced together the rest of the game with his lower leverage relievers, including newcomer Austin Davis, who pitched a scoreless frame in his Padres debut. With an off-day Thursday and another coming on Monday, the extra usage shouldn’t be too big a deal.

After the game, the Padres were (naturally) pleased with their nine-run fifth. But they seemed particularly pleased with their mindset during that inning: They didn’t settle for four or six; they left no doubt.

They used the entire field. They were content to take what was given. Profar worked a feisty walk. Machado, despite a right hip flexor strain, hustled down the line to beat an infield single. Then Merrill added the exclamation point.

“That’s what they do,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “They’re [second in] the league in innings with three or more runs this month. It’s kind of like, when they get going, they’ll put the ball in play. And that was it.”

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