DENVER — As his postgame media session wound down on Tuesday night, Padres manager Bob Melvin was asked about the travel plans of his team’s newest acquisitions. He recited them: Rich Hill would join the team in San Diego. But Ji Man Choi, Garrett Cooper and Scott Barlow were expected to be available for Wednesday’s series finale against the Rockies.
“I hope Barlow is,” Melvin joked after he’d used six relievers to cover nine innings.
Or, more accurately, he wasn’t joking at all.
The Padres, as it turned out, would need to cover a second consecutive bullpen game at Coors Field with Joe Musgrove scratched on Wednesday morning due to shoulder soreness. They needed Barlow, acquired in a trade with the Royals just before Tuesday’s Deadline, to pitch 1 2/3 innings in an 11-1 victory on Wednesday afternoon.
Barlow, who hadn’t pitched more than one inning since July 1, was up for the challenge. Awake at 3 a.m. to catch a flight out of Kansas City, he landed in Denver at 7 and hit traffic on his way in. By 8, he was in bed at the team hotel for a quick nap. Hours later, Barlow was on the mound at Coors Field, dominating the Rockies in a scoreless, hitless debut.
“Long day,” Barlow said. “Good to end on a good note. I’m excited to go to San Diego and check it out there. Overall, just a really awesome day.”
An awesome day for Barlow — and for the Padres as a whole. By Tuesday’s 4 p.m. local time Trade Deadline, they had firmly staked their claim as contenders. In the ensuing 24 hours, they reeled off a pair of victories over the Rockies that moved them within four games in the National League Wild Card race. Having won five of their last six, the Padres are as close to a playoff spot as they’ve been since mid-June.
“We just feel good as a team,” said Fernando Tatis Jr., after he’d launched his 100th career home run. “Everybody’s clicking at the same time. That’s what we were lacking all year. Feel like we’re on a really good roll right now.”
Tatis’ moonshot was one of five monstrous home runs the Padres hit on Wednesday. Ha-Seong Kim crushed a no-doubter on the game’s third pitch as he continues to make his case as the sport’s premier leadoff man. Juan Soto’s Statcast-projected 449-footer in the third was the longest of the bunch. Gary Sánchez — one of only three players to reach 100 home runs in fewer games than Tatis — went deep twice.
And Tatis put the game out of reach with his 444-foot blast in the ninth. The Padres became the first team since Statcast began tracking in 2015 to hit five homers of at least 425 feet in the same game. The usual Coors Field-related caveats apply. Still, no other team had ever done it.
“Nice day offensively for us, all the way around,” said Melvin.
Not to diminish the offense’s prolific performance, but the pitching might’ve been every bit as good. Called into duty on short notice — on a warm afternoon in the Colorado altitude, with the wind blowing out — the Padres bullpenned their way to a four-hitter.
“Very gutsy performance by the bullpen today,” said right-hander Nick Martinez, the first of five pitchers to get the ball. “Back-to-back bullpen days is really tough, especially here in Colorado. And those are two games we won.”
Considering where things stood two nights ago, they feel like two massive wins. The Padres dropped Monday’s series opener in heartbreaking fashion. Then, they waited for the Trade Deadline, uncertain what it might bring.
Tuesday brought clarity. San Diego was buying, after all. The organization was throwing its chips in for a playoff run in 2023. The Padres responded to that message by thumping the Rockies twice.
Next up: A much-needed off-day before a four-game weekend wraparound series against the rival Dodgers.
The reinforcements have arrived. The Padres are going for it in 2023, just like they always were.
“I think [chairman Peter Seidler] and [general manager A.J. Preller], they have faith in this team,” said Manny Machado. “That faith hasn’t left. They still believe in everyone in this clubhouse. Since Spring Training, we’ve hit some bumps on the road, but we know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone in here knows that we have a goal to reach.”
A goal that — after a whirlwind 24 hours — still felt attainable.