Merrill's power surge continues as Padres take series from Brewers

San Diego rookie blasts another home run in Padres 4th straight win

Jackson Merrill is not terribly interested in talking about Rookie of the Year voting. In fact, it seems like being asked about it kind of annoys him.

"I don't even care about that stuff dude," said Merrill this week when questioned about his burgeoning ROY candidacy. "I couldn't care less about any Rookie of the Year voting or All-Star voting. I care about our team right here. I care about winning here."

Then allow the rest of us to carry the Merrill Rookie of the Year torch for him. The 21-year-old smashed his 7th homer in 10 games, a 440-foot blast to dead centerfield, in a 6-4 Padres win over the Brewers on Saturday at Petco Park.

San Diego did not have a pair of likely All-Stars in the lineup. Fernando Tatis Jr. (triceps) or Jurickson Profar (knee) both got a day off. But, the Friars have a lot more depth in the batting order than most people realized. In the 4th inning they showed off an ability to string hits together for a big inning, something this franchise has not done well in recent years.

Donovan Solano, batting 2nd in place of Tatis Jr., led off with a single. Jake Cronenworth, batting 3rd in place of Profar, followed with another single. Manny Machado flew out to deep centerfield to bring up Merrill, who started the season batting 9th and has slowly climbed his way up the order. He took a sinker from Carlos Rodriguez and smoked it 105.9 MPH off the bat, a towering drive that bounded off the batter's eye in centerfield. It was the 10th homer of the season for Merrill, making him the Major League rookie home run leader.

Merrill is also the National League rookie leader in RBI and hits, and is in the top-5 in OPS, slugging %, and batting average. So, yeah, as long as Pirates phenom Paul Skenes doesn't keep striking out 45 batters a game Jackson will at least be a finalist and have a chance to join Benito Santiago as the only Padres to win the ROY award.

Ha-Seong Kim also blasted a solo homer in the 4th inning to put the Friars on top 4-0, giving starting pitcher Randy Vasquez a nice little cushion. Vasquez was solid if not spectacular, which was good enough to get a win.

The right-hander tossed five innings of shutout ball, allowing five hits and walking three. He got some help erasing a few of those baserunners from his defense. Catcher Kyle Higashioka threw out Bryce Turang trying to steal 2nd base twice before the Brewers stopped trying to run on him. Vasquez also helped himself out in the field, starting an inning-ending double play on a Joey Ortiz comebacker to end a Milwaukee threat.

Higashioka added a 2-run homer in the 7th to make it 6-0 and it's a good thing he did because the Padres bullpen was suspect again. Wandy Peralta, Yuki Matsui, and Adrian Morejon each tossed a scoreless inning but Jhony Brito made a mess of the 9th. Two singles, a walk, and a grand slam with two outs suddenly turned it into a save situation for Robert Suarez. He needed three pitches to get a groundout to end it.

San Diego has already won the series and can sweep the 4-game set on Sunday afternoon with Michael King on the mound against Brewers rookie Tobias Myers.

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