The August month in review will have to wait another day, because what Josh Barfield and the Padres did Monday night was huge. For those who may not have seen it, here’s a quick run through the ninth.
Colorado closer Brian Fuentes enters the contest with a
7-5 lead. The first batter he faces is Russell Branyan, who homered off lefty Tom Martin in his previous at-bat. The crowd of better than 35,000 is chanting “Let’s Go Padres.” The sequence to Branyan:
- FB 92 up and in, 1-0
- SL 79 down and away, 1-1
- SL 79 down and away, 2-1
- SL 78 down, 3-1
- FB 93 outer half, 3-2 (best fastball Fuentes threw in terms of location)
- FB 93 inside, fouled back, still 3-2
- FB 93 inside, fly out to center
Branyan doesn’t get on base, but he battles and gives the guys behind him a good look at two of Fuentes’ pitches. That brings up Mike Cameron:
- CH 72 down, 1-0
- FB 94 down and in, 2-0
- FB 92 up and in, fouled off, 2-1 (Rockies reliever Manny Corpas catches the ball in the bullpen as Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe pursue it; neither would have gotten to it, but veteran teammate Jose Mesa gives Corpas a piece of his mind anyway)
- FB 94 down and in, 3-1
- FB 92 in, fouled back, 3-2
- FB 94 outer half, fouled back, still 3-2
- FB 92 up and away, walk (first issued by a Rockies’ pitcher all night)
Fuentes is working hard. He appears to be overthrowing his fastball and having trouble commanding the pitch. Shortstop Geoff Blum is the next scheduled hitter but he is lifted for Mike Piazza, who is celebrating his 38th birthday. Khalil Greene is on the active roster but only available for pinch-running duties. If the Padres tie the game and go to extra innings, Manny Alexander will play shortstop. But first, Piazza must make something happen:
- FB 92 middle, fouled back, 0-1 (if Piazza’s in the entire game there’s a good chance he ends it with this pitch; it’s right down the middle and Mike just misses it)
- CH 73 up, called strike, 0-2 (nice pitch; might be out of the zone but it catches Piazza off guard)
- FB 93 up, 1-2
- throw to first (right after Tony Gwynn calls it)
- FB 91 up and away, 2-2
- CH 74 down, 3-2 (this is the pitch of the at-bat; nasty change — I still don’t know how Piazza laid off it)
- throw to first; chorus of boos
- FB 91 up and away, walk (Cameron was running)
As was the case on Sunday, Piazza is lifted for a pinch-runner. Again, it’s Greene, who scored the winning run a day earlier while running for Piazza. That brings up Josh Barfield. The pitcher’s spot is due up after him, and with a lefty on the mound and Piazza already having been used (and Ben Johnson a day away from being recalled from Portland), Alexander is in the on-deck circle. Barfield steps to the plate:
- CH 74 down and in, swinging strike, 0-1 (I’m screaming at the television — Fuentes has just walked the last two guys and starts the rookie off with a changeup well out of the zone; he took Barfield to school on this pitch)
- CH 74 down and in, fouled at plate, 0-2 (same pitch, Barfield just gets a piece of it; cut to Alexander on deck — I have that sick feeling in my stomach right about now)
- FB 91 up, 1-2
- CH 73 away, fouled back, still 1-2 (same pitch Barfield couldn’t touch before but in a hittable spot)
Before I give you the last pitch, you have to understand that to this point, Barfield is easily having the worst at-bat of the inning. He looks completely clueless after the first two change-ups from Fuentes, and now he appears to be holding on for dear life. In the annals of sports history, there have been a lot more significant and more improbable outcomes than what Barfield does next, but it shocks the heck out of me:
- FB 90 down, 3-run homer off facade beyond left field fence
Shock and elation.
After watching the replay several times, I see that Colorado catcher Yorvit Torrealba was set up down and away. Fuentes gets the first part of that equation right but leaves the pitch out over the plate. The idea was to get Barfield to chase something out of the zone. Instead, the rookie goes down and tees off for a walk-off homer.
I still have a hard time believing it. Barfield looked so completely lost at the start of that at-bat.
Greene, for the second game in a row, scores the winning run as a pinch-runner for Piazza. The team greets Barfield at the plate, and the crowd is absolutely rockin’.
On TV, Matt Vasgersian tries to interview Barfield, but it’s not happening. First Brian Sweeney and Cla Meredith come by and knock his headset off. Then Clay Hensley delivers a cream pie to the face and it’s all over.
Hot damn, folks; we’re in a pennant race!