Those Who Snooze Don’t Always Lose

We were walking west along J Street, just past Fire Station 4, when the crowd erupted. Cardinals fans seem to travel with their team, so we assumed that the visiting team had extended its seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead.

I was in a lousy mood before we even got to the ballpark — I forget why, but it seemed important at the time. The game wasn’t helping any.

In the bottom of the first, after Jody Gerut drew an eight-pitch walk to lead off the inning, Tadahito Iguchi rapped into an easy 6-4-3 double play and I just smiled. It wasn’t the smile of a happy man, mind you, more like the thing Jeff Kent does right before he gets tossed.

Next inning, Adrian Gonzalez got the Padres started with a booming drive to center that Ryan Ludwick misplayed into a double. Kevin Kouzmanoff followed with a sharp single to left, advancing Gonzalez to third.

Interesting. Runners at the corners, nobody out. How will the Padres fail to score here?

Easy. Khalil Greene grounded the first pitch he saw to third baseman Troy Glaus, who fired to Adam Kennedy at second for the force. Kennedy noticed Gonzalez trying to score and, rather than trying to complete the double play, threw home. Yadier Molina whipped the ball back to Glaus, but Gonzalez scrambled back to the bag, just ahead of the tag.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Padres offense this year: The crowd went nuts. Yep, Gonzalez retreated safely to the base he’d already occupied and people were getting ready for a parade. It’s amazing how much fun you can have when you just lower your standards, or better yet, abandon them altogether.

Meanwhile, back in reality, Scott Hairston stepped to the plate. The Padres still had runners at first and third, but now there was one out and we were, for whatever reason, giddy with delight.

Hairston worked the count full. With Greene at first, I asked my wife, Do you send him? She said no, and I agreed. For their careers, Hairston strikes out in 22.5% of his plate appearances, while Molina throws out 49.5% of runners who try to steal against him. Greene isn’t slow, but neither is he a burner. Knowing what we know about Hairston and Molina (and despite the fact that weak-hitting Luke Carlin waits on deck), it’s pretty much a given that you don’t send him in that situation unless your specific goal is to avoid scoring runs.

You know what happens next: Greene breaks with the pitch, Hairston looks at strike three, and Molina guns down the runner at second, inning over. I inform my wife we’ll be leaving as soon as Greg Maddux comes out of the game.

Grass grew, paint dried, and the fifth inning rolled around. With one out in the home half, Greene singled to left. Hairston whacked the next pitch, a hanging slider from St. Louis starter Joel Pineiro, down the left field line for a double that pushed Greene to third and no further. Carlin then fanned on three pitches and Tony Clark, batting for Maddux, lifted a lazy fly ball to center for the final out.

Yep, that was enough.

We made our way out of the ballpark, past the trendy sports bars and pizza joints, past the fire station — but you know this part already — and back to our car. We didn’t listen to the game on the way home. I had no mind to subject myself to more of the Padres than was absolutely necessary. Come to think of it, even that had become too much.

We spent much of the trip home coming up with catchy slogans for the team: “Our Team, Our Town… Let’s Move” and “You Snooze, We Lose” — that sort of thing. Because really, at this point in the season, you have two choices: hit stuff or laugh. Well, I prefer to laugh.

I later learned of Kouzmanoff’s heroics in the sixth and that his three-run jack ended up being enough to move the Padres ahead and keep them there until the end. After I was sure everything was okay, we fired up TiVo and watched the rest of the game. Actually, we watched the bottom of the sixth, the top of the eighth, and the top of the ninth, but you get the idea.

Without wishing to take anything away from Kouz, who absolutely crushed his home run, we all owe Pineiro a big thank you. After walking Gerut and Brian Giles, he fanned Gonzalez for the second out. The script for the ’08 Padres calls for an inning-ending double play right there, but I’ll be darned if Pineiro didn’t just put the ball right past Gonzalez.

Nothing good ever came of a strikeout, right? Isn’t that what they say?

Yeah, well they need to watch this game again. Gonzalez’s inability to make contact allowed Kouzmanoff to bat with ducks on the proverbial pond. Kouz then tattooed a 1-0 hanging slider to Tatooine. (I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds kinda funny.)

We skipped forward to watch Heath Bell and Trevor Hoffman put the finishing touches on a Padres victory. And I thought how nice it is that the rest of the nation has gone back to ignoring Hoffman now that he’s not blowing saves anymore.

Or something like that…