By Jake Rill
PHOENIX — When Bob Melvin was a big league player, there were various ballparks he enjoyed hitting at more than others. During his managerial career, he has heard sluggers discuss how some backgrounds make it easier to see the ball out of a pitcher’s hand.
Melvin used a golf comparison to help explain it — there are some courses “where you just feel good in a particular environment.”
If that’s the case, Brandon Drury hitting at Chase Field must feel like Tiger Woods putting at Augusta National.
In his second game back from a concussion, Drury gave the Padres’ lineup a much-needed jolt Friday night, swatting a pair of early home runs off Madison Bumgarner in a 12-3 win over the D-backs. Austin Nola and Ha-Seong Kim also went deep for San Diego, which collected 17 hits a night after getting shut out. It had scored only five total runs over its previous four games.
The Padres, whose 12 runs were their most since a 13-5 win over the Royals on Aug. 26, maintained their 1 1/2-game lead for the third and final National League Wild Card spot over the Brewers, who had a walk-off win over the Yankees.
Since breaking into the Majors with Arizona from 2015-17, Drury has had success at Chase Field. His 23 home runs here are 11 more than he has anywhere else, and he’s a career .304 hitter in 151 games at the ballpark.
“I like it. I always have liked it,” Drury said. “I don’t know if it’s the roof or the backdrop or what it is, but I felt like I’ve seen the ball decent here in the past — I don’t think that much better than other places, even though maybe the numbers say that. But I feel good in there.”
Drury has especially made Phoenix feel like home again in 2022. He hit two homers here while playing for the Reds during a three-game series from June 13-15. This week, he’s 4-for-8 halfway through the Padres’ four-game set vs. the D-backs, as he also had two of San Diego’s three hits on Thursday.
After getting hit in the helmet by a pitch during a Sept. 2 game against the Dodgers and missing 10 days, Drury is providing a boost — exactly what the Padres were looking for when they acquired him ahead of the Trade Deadline.
“To come back with the fire that he’s got is really giving us a spark,” Nola said.
Melvin wasn’t pleased with the Padres’ offensive approach on Thursday night. Friday was much better, and that started with Drury early. He worked the count full against Bumgarner in the first inning, before turning on the left-hander’s seventh pitch of the at-bat — a fastball high and inside — and sending it a Statcast-projected 390 feet to left field.
At the start of the fourth, Drury jumped all over a low first-pitch cutter from Bumgarner and crushed it 468 feet to left-center for his 27th home run of the season. It was Drury’s longest homer of his career and San Diego’s longest of the year, besting the mark previously set by Manny Machado (463) on June 18 in Colorado.
Drury had hit multiple home runs in a game only once before — July 27, 2019, when he belted two for the Blue Jays in a matchup vs. the Rays at Rogers Centre.
The rest of the Padres’ lineup followed suit on Friday, as the Friars plated at least one run in six of the first eight frames. Five players had multiple hits, including three apiece from Kim and José Azocar.
“They came to hit today. That was real personal for them,” said left-hander Blake Snell, who allowed only one run and struck out seven over a season-high seven innings.
It was an encouraging night for Juan Soto, who ended a 1-for-31 skid with an RBI single in the fifth. He also hit a two-run double to left field during a four-run eighth, his first extra-base hit since a home run on Aug. 28.
“I’ve been pulling the ball so much, and I’ve just tried to back up to the ball, hit it the other way, like I did today,” Soto said. “Whenever I start doing that, everything just changes.”
Something else changed from 24 hours earlier — the Padres’ aggressiveness in their pursuit of a Wild Card berth (and more), a result of the players coming together and providing each other with added motivation.
“We have been a little bit lax lately,” Drury said. “Sometimes, it’s what you need. You get the guys together and have a team meeting and get us all going and remind us what we’re here for — to win a World Series.”