Jorge Soler, who already has more home runs this year than he did last season, is set to lead his Miami Marlins against the visiting San Diego Padres on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series.
Soler hit a career-high 48 homers in 2019. In 2021 he hit 30, including three in the postseason. He followed that by signing a three-year, $36-million contract with the Marlins, but flopped in 2022, hitting just 13 home runs in 72 games of an injury-plagued season.
Last week, however, Soler homered in five straight games, a streak that was snapped Sunday. Still, he has 17 homers in 52 games entering this week, ranked tied for second in the major leagues.
"He's like Barry Bonds right now," Marlins first baseman Garrett Cooper said. "If I were a betting man, I'd be putting bets on this guy."
The Marlins, who are coming off a three-game sweep of the Angels, will start right-hander Sandy Alcantara (2-5, 4.86 ERA) on Tuesday.
Alcantara, the National League's reigning Cy Young Award winner, is 2-1 with a 0.96 ERA in three career starts against the Padres.
However, the Marlins are just 3-7 when Alcantara starts this season. The righty has just four quality starts, with the Marlins going 3-1 in those games.
The Padres, who have baseball's third-highest payroll at $249 million, are just 24-29 after losing their last two games.
For perspective, consider that the Marlins are 28-26 despite a $92-million payroll that ranks 24th.
Four Padres - shortstop Xander Bogaerts, outfielder Juan Soto and pitchers Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove - combine to make more in 2023 salary than all 25 Marlins combined.
The Padres will start lefty Ryan Weathers (1-3, 3.94 ERA), who is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in two career starts against the Marlins. He pitched four scoreless innings in his only start at Miami.
San Diego is missing one of its biggest stars as third baseman Manny Machado -- a Miami native -- is on the injured list due to a fractured right hand.
In addition, Bogaerts (sore left wrist) and Soto (back tightness) are not 100 percent.
Bogaerts said he is playing through the pain.
"It's not going to break or get worse," he said. "My numbers may take a hit, but I can get those back up."
Soto was scratched from Sunday's starting lineup when his back tightened up during batting practice, but he was used as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and grounded out. Soto leads the Padres in homers (10), doubles (14), runs (31) and RBIs (24).
Both players are expected to start in the opener.
Perhaps the injuries are a reason as to why the high-priced Padres are struggling. They are 12-14 on the road, and Miami is 14-11 at home.
"I wish I had an answer for you," Padres manager Bob Melvin said. "Hopefully we can make some progress."
--Field Level Media