I couldn’t sit still on Monday. I can’t sit still a lot of the time, but on Opening Day it’s always worse. My nervous tics develop nervous tics.
I arrived downtown just after 4 p.m., wearing my Chris Young jersey, and toting my digital camera and scorebook. Mrs. Ducksnorts and I wandered over to one of the many fine establishments within walking distance of Petco Park, where we snacked on finger foods and quaffed Belhaven
Scotch Scottish Ale on tap at $3.50 per pint.
I thought about the folks who are outraged at being charged more than twice as much for domestic swill at the ballpark. After brief consideration, I decided that “continuing to buy domestic swill at the ballpark” probably isn’t the most effective way to show one’s outrage. My crazy theory is that if fans stop buying the stuff like it’s water (which it is, but that’s another story), then eventually the Padres will have to adjust their prices. Until then, what’s the incentive?
I was on my way to a baseball game and an ecomomics lesson broke out. I hate when that happens.
Anyway, after snacking and quaffing, we headed over to the ballpark, where we picked up our free hats and watched the tail end of Astros batting practice. Behind us, kids were playing at “Park in the Park”; as we moved along the concourse toward our seats, the strains of a band playing classic rock gave me some nasty flashbacks.
Hi, this is .38 Special and we’re here to ruin your life. Have a super day!
Eventually we made it up into left nosebleed and found our seats. The Astros were introduced, and all the ex-Padres got nice rounds of applause — even Jose Cruz Jr. One of the endearing qualities of San Diego is that it doesn’t take much for us to forgive a guy. Pretty much go away quietly, and we’ll treat you like family. Seriously, if Marcus Giles hooks on with another team and returns to Petco Park, it will be to cheers.
The game, dude; the game.
Gotcha. Jake Peavy struggled a bit with his command early but looked sharp as the evening progressed. He tossed seven scoreless innings and finished with just four strikeouts. By my count he allowed two well-struck balls all night: a drive off the bat of Hunter Pence in the third that took Brian Giles to the warning track near Petco Porch in right, and a Miguel Tejada fly to right-center in the sixth.
Peavy worked a little too deep in the count at times — although he didn’t get much help in the fifth when third-base umpire Marty Foster ruled that Michael Bourn hadn’t swung at a 1-2 pitch that should have ended the inning. Peavy had to throw seven more pitches as a result, not that it mattered.
On the other hand, Peavy allowed just 5 two-strike foul balls, so he wasn’t wasting much energy there. His opponent, Roy Oswalt, threw 17 two-strike foul balls. The Padres did a nice job of making Oswalt work.
Tadahito Iguchi enjoyed his Padres debut, knocking two doubles and a single. Kevin Kouzmanoff worked three full counts but had precious little to show for his efforts. Adrian Gonzalez singled twice and scalded a ball in the sixth that looked like extra bases, but it hung up in the air and Bourn, who got a good jump, was able to track it down.
That sixth inning was frustrating to watch. It reminded me of last year’s Padres. They managed to load the bases with one out and come away with nothing. That shouldn’t happen.
They made amends the next inning. With Khalil Greene on second and two out, Paul McAnulty fell behind in the count, 0-2, before coming back to draw a walk. Tony Clark, making his Padres debut, whacked the next pitch into center field to bring home Greene with San Diego’s final tally of the night. It’s a sample size of one, but proper execution is always a welcome sight.
Speaking of McAnulty, he looked terrific at the plate. He lined a single to left in the second, grounded one into right-center in the fourth, worked an eight-pitch at-bat in the sixth before striking out, and drew the aforementioned two-out walk. He also spat on some pretty good looking pitches. Opinion is divided as to whether he’ll cut it at the big-league level, but I believe he can, at least in some capacity.
Josh Bard had good at-bats, as did Peavy, who drove in the Padres’ first two runs. He hit a ball to deep left in the second that plated Bard. Then in the fourth, with Houston looking bunt, Peavy smoked Oswalt’s first offering over Tejada’s head and into left-center, bringing home Bard again.
Giles? The box score says 0-for-4 with a walk, but he made Oswalt and company work. I show him as having seen 28 pitches on Monday. That helps in the ol’ “war of attrition” and gives his mates a good look at what’s coming their way.
The only downer was Scott Hairston. He had no clue what Oswalt was doing, and his at-bats against the Astros bullpen weren’t much better.
On the bright side, Hairston looked comfortable in center field. He wasn’t really tested — well, unless you count the mind-bogglingly stupid baserunning of Tejada in the ninth.
Explain this to me. Your team is down four with three outs to go and you hit a fairly routine single to center. Why would you possibly try to stretch that into a double?
There are so many things wrong here, I hardly know where to start. First off, if you reach second safely, what have you done? You’ve put yourself into scoring position so that, say, a single can bring you home and cut the defecit to three runs. Well, I suppose there’s some value in that. Except for the whole possiblity of getting thrown out at second thing.
Fortunately there’s a real easy way to eliminate the risk of getting gunned down at second. It’s called “defensive indifference” and it’s what probably would have happened if Tejada had remained at first base. But even if the Padres hadn’t conceded the bag to him outright, it’s not exactly a secret that they don’t control the running game.
Why willingly introduce risk into the equation? Seriously, Tejada’s been around the game long enough to know better, but that is one of the stupidest pieces of baserunning I’ve seen in a long time.
Not that it mattered…