SAN DIEGO (AP) — This is how the San Diego Padres envisioned they'd be playing all season long. Unfortunately for them, it came a few months too late to likely make a difference.
Juan Soto homered for the third straight game and Manny Machado also connected for the Padres, who beat San Francisco 4-0 on Sunday to win the final three games of a four-game series against the wild card-contending Giants. San Francisco dropped into a tie with Arizona, Miami and Cincinnati for the third wild-card spot.
The Padres came into the season with World Series aspirations and talk of a parade after a stirring run to the NL Championship Series last fall and then beefing up their payroll to about $250 million, third-largest in the majors.
But they've been a massive disappointment most of the year, struggling offensively despite the big names in the lineup. They haven't been at .500 since May 11. They're eight games under .500 and 5 1/2 games out of the NL's final playoff spot, with four teams ahead of them.
“I think its a little late but still we have 24 games to go and we are going to play as hard as we can and see how far we can end up,” Soto said.
“There's always time. We’re waiting for that miracle," Machado said. "The only people that can handle that is us, so we can make it happen. We’ve just got to believe in it and believe in each other.”
Seth Lugo (6-6) held the Giants to just three hits in six innings and allowed only one baserunner into scoring position. Three relievers finished the combined four-hitter, including Josh Hader striking out the side in the ninth, around one walk, in a non-save situation.
The Padres will try to win four straight games for the first time this season on Monday when they welcome Philadelphia, which beat them in six games in the NLCS. The Phillies took three of four from the Padres in Philadelphia right after the All-Star break.
After going 15-10 in July, the Padres were 10-18 in August. They went 1-5 on a trip through Milwaukee and St. Louis and looked sloppy and listless in losing the series opener 7-2 to the Giants on Thursday night, before bounding back impressively.
“Overall, you look at this team and what they did to us over these four games, and there’s some curiosity about why they are in the standings where they are," Giants starter Alex Cobb said. “That’s one of the best lineups in baseball, regardless of where they are in the standings.”
Ha-Seong Kim had two stolen bases to push his season total to 31, the most by a Padres player since Everth Cabrera had 37 in 2013.
The Padres scored three quick runs in the first against Cobb (7-6), who came within one out of a no-hitter against Cincinnati on Tuesday night. Kim hit a leadoff single, stole second and was erased on Fernando Tatis' grounder. But Soto then launched an opposite-field, two-run homer to left, his 28th. Machado singled and scored on a double by Xander Bogaerts, who had four hits.
Machado homered to center with one out in the third, his 26th. He had three hits.
The home runs were “a huge boost, especially in the dugout and also when you’re on the mound,” Lugo said. "When you’re getting run support from your big guys who are doing damage, it’s a good feeling that gives you confidence to execute pitches and keep the game the way it is.
“I feel like these last few wins have given us a boost of energy," Lugo said. "The guys are a little more upbeat, so it’s nice.”
Said manager Bob Melvin: “We have the ability to do it, so better now than never, right? The first game didn’t look great and the last three have been really good, so hopefully that continues.”
Cobb lasted only three innings, allowing four runs and six hits.
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