I met a girl at summer camp when I was nine. Laura was 16 and the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. We exchanged letters for a while, then got on with our lives. In my dream, we meet again for some forgotten reason.
“It’s great to see you,” she says.
We stare at each other for a few seconds, searching for words.
“Well, uh, I gotta go,” she says.
What had we talked about back then?
At least it was only a dream. So awkward when that happens and I’m awake.
* * *
Ten-game home winning streak snapped against the Phillies Monday night. Kevin Correia started, didn’t have much. Got whacked around in the third, was lucky to escape with just the two runs. Served up long home runs to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the fifth, back-to-back.
Utley turned on a fastball up and in, hammered it down the right-field line. How does he keep that ball fair?
Howard’s blast came on a fastball out over the plate. Crushed it 430 feet to dead center. Punch line: He hit it off the end of his bat. Struck out the other four times he came up, mostly chasing breaking balls down and in. Howard can be pitched to, it’s just — well, don’t miss.
The Padres flashed their power in the sixth. Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Hairston went back-to-back off Joe Blanton, both to left. As Daniel at Friar Forecast notes, a ridiculous percentage of Adrian’s fly balls are leaving the yard. (Speaking of Friar Forecast, founder Myron Logan has started something called Another Padre Blog that you should go read.)
Hairston’s shot hit the upper deck facade. He also just missed a game-tying homer off Brad Lidge in the ninth.
Stupid play of the night followed Hairston’s near miss. With Adrian on first, Giles steps to the plate. Lidge bounces a pitch and it kicks away from catcher Carlos Ruiz. Adrian starts chugging toward second, which makes me cringe because I can outrun him, and I’ve got a full leg brace and crutches.
Ruiz recovers the ball quickly and fires to Jimmy Rollins covering, but Adrian sneaks in under the tag. Then Rollins pushes him off the bag, and second base umpire Paul Emmel calls Adrian out. Assuming I’m reading it correctly, rule 7.04(d) indicates that Adrian should be safe.
Beyond Emmel’s curious interpretation, one other thing puzzles me: Why the heck is Adrian running? The Padres are down by two, so it’s not like getting into scoring position helps. I suppose it removes the possibility of a conventional double play, but I’m not comfortable with that risk/reward calculus. Unless the ball ends up in El Cajon, Adrian stays on first.
Water. Bridge. Lidge retires Brian Giles to end the game. I only wish that Bud Black had gotten into Emmel’s face a little more. When an umpire blows a call that badly, the least a manager can do is get himself tossed.
* * *
Speaking of Correia, is it any coincidence that his only two effective big-league seasons came in ’06 and ’07, when he worked primarily out of the bullpen? Check out some of Correia’s splits so far this year:
|Through games of June 1, 2009|
|Through games of June 1, 2009|
|Through games of June 1, 2009|
These are different ways of looking at the same thing. All demonstrate that the longer Correia stays in the game, the worse he performs and eventually he will implode.
Correia exhibited similar tendencies in 2008. For his career, he gets killed from the third plate appearance on (.323/.400/.519) and from pitch 76 on (.316/.388/.491). If this isn’t the profile of a pitcher that should be used a few innings at a time, I don’t know what is.
That’s not all I learned, though. I also learned that I just spent way too much time thinking about Kevin Correia. And so did you. Hey, we’re in this together.
* * *
Before Tuesday’s game, Black called Tony Gwynn Jr. the Padres’ best defensive center fielder since Mike Cameron. I hope Black is saying this to be nice and doesn’t actually believe it.
Jake Peavy got hit by a virus but tried to pitch anyway and gave up four runs in his only inning of work. Josh Geer replaced him and served up a bomb to Howard.
The Phillies led, 6-0, after three innings. Their fans were louder than those of the Padres, which filled me with so much pride that I switched off the game and worked on a crossword puzzle.
After spotting Philly a 10-1 lead, the Padres closed it to 10-5 and even loaded the bases in the ninth. Adrian smacked another homer (don’t call him underrated; yeah, the stratospheric walk rate means he’s no longer operating in stealth mode) and Luis Perdomo made a rare appearance.
Sorry I missed Perdomo. It’s like missing Halley’s Comet. I may never get another chance.
* * *
I’ve lived in San Diego for 20 years and it still surprises me that people here are cool with letting the other team’s fams take over our house. I grew up in Los Angeles, where that just didn’t happen. I’ve spoken with natives about this, and some don’t even recognize it as a problem because being outnumbered and outvoiced at the ballpark is all they’ve ever known. Sad, that.
* * *
Palm trees, dead grass, birds chirping, lamppost, rusted silver BMW. Clocks tick as Toby the pug snores curled up in his basket. A blue truck passes.
Chris Young avoided the strike zone again. He’s gotten a little too good at that for my taste:
|Through games of June 3, 2009|
Those aren’t the sorts of trends you want to see from a pitcher.
At bat in the second, Young drove a ball deep to right-center with the bases loaded and two out that would have plated three and tied the score. Right fielder Greg Dobbs made a nice running catch to end the threat, and the crowd went nuts because Petco Park is everyone’s home away from home. I flipped the channel to… something without the sound of Phillies fans.
By the end of the night, the Padres had been swept at home for the first time in 2009. Nobody cared.
* * *
Shameless bit o’ self-promotion. My latest stuff on the tubes:
- Opposite Directions (Unfiltered). What would you say to a guy who owned a .241/.295/.383 career line in 518 plate appearances through his age 28 season? I’m thinking it wouldn’t be, “Keep at it, kid; in a decade, you’ll be an offensive beast.”
- Pedro Feliz and the golden zapatos (Hardball Times). Four walks in a game? It’s gotta be the shoes.
- Gwynn and Gerut (Unfiltered)
- Critics, criticism, Cloninger (Hardball Times). When I call out someone like Tony Cloninger or Mike Williams for being worse than his peers, I also celebrate the fact that these guys had careers.
- Apocalypse or Juan Pierre? (Unfiltered). How discouraging must it be for National League teams to witness what the Dodgers are doing without Manny Ramirez in the lineup?
- Matt Stairs: Old Guy, Good Hitter (Unfiltered). Stairs is the kind of player who will be forgotten in 20 years but shouldn’t be.
- All or nothing in overtime: Part 1, winless in Montreal (Hardball Times). The 1969 Montreal Expos played 12 extra-inning games and lost them all.
* * *
Thee is no middle ground with the ’09 Padres. They are brilliant or wretched, never mediocre. I smell sponsorship: “That rally-killing double play was brought to you by Prozac.”
Remember when the Padres were dismantling teams at home? Now they’ve lost four straight.
Chad Gaudin’s command in Colorado? A mirage. He was back to his old tricks Friday night, missing the strike zone with aplomb. He’s got good stuff — low-90s fastball with movement and a biting slider that made Justin Upton look ridiculous in the fifth — but doesn’t seem to trust it.
If you missed Gaudin’s start, his first batter of the night tells the story. Gaudin jumped ahead of Felipe Lopez, 0-2, and then walked him. From there, it was just variations on that theme. I could tell you more, but then I’d have to kill… myself.
On the bright side, Joe Thatcher looked great. Struck out the first four batters he faced before giving up two weak ground ball singles. I don’t know how Thatcher throws strikes with a delivery that is funkier than George Clinton, but it seems to be working, so who am I to argue?
Perdomo got into the contest. The Padres are 2-11 in games in which he appears. I call him “Bandera Blanca,” which is Spanish for “White Flag.”
The Padres almost scored in the sixth. With runners at first and second and one out, Chase Headley lined a single between first and second. Upton got on the ball quickly and with all his momentum coming toward home, fired a strike to catcher Chris Snyder, who tagged out Eckstein.
I screamed when I saw Glenn Hoffman waving Eckstein home, but the play was closer than I’d expected and it took a perfect throw. Still, what does one run mean when you’re down, 6-0?
That’s why I’m not as upset about the play now as when it happened. Whining about the difference between an 8-0 loss and and 8-1 loss makes a guy seem petty, and we won’t have that.
The left-hander that worked the seventh for Arizona — Daniel Schlereth — dominated. Struck out the Padres in order. Got Hundley to chase a breaking ball in the dirt and abused Gwynn with fastballs. Fanned Josh Wilson in between, but I couldn’t tell you how because Wilson’s at-bets tend not to be memorable. It is for the best.
Must be tough to face Schlereth, who works in the mid-90s, immediately after six innings of Doug Davis. I’m not saying Davis is slow, but I took a nap during one of his pitches and felt quite refreshed by the time it reached Snyder’s mitt.
* * *
* * *
Fun win on Saturday night. Remember all that stuff I said about Correia earlier? Well, he made me look like an idiot, which is cool because it helps the team.
Correia gave up two semi-fluky runs (three ground ball singles, a walk, and a hit batsman) in the first and then shut down the Diamondbacks for the next five innings. I thought he was going to fall apart in the fifth, when Max Scherzer led off with a single and Felipe Lopez smoked the next pitch. Fortunately, Lopez’s drive found Adrian’s glove and turned into a double play. Correia then retired Ryan Roberts on a first-pitch groundout, getting through the inning on all of three pitches, which marked a nice change from the 35 he’d needed to survive the first.
Correia pitched so well that I almost removed the bit showing that he tends to fade in the middle innings. I decided to keep it for three reasons:
- I’d already done the work.
- Analysis is a process, and it’s important to consider all available evidence.
- The point still holds, although Correia has given us a compelling reason to keep an eye on this going forward.
Another guy that made me look like an idiot on Saturday was Gwynn. I remain skeptical that he can play at this level, but the kid had a fantastic game, reaching base in all five of his trips to the plate out of the leadoff spot. That has happened 15 times in Padres history (the most recent coming on September 21, 2005, when Dave Roberts did it).
Gwynn had a little help. In the fateful sixth, when the Padres scored all six of their runs (and Will Venable collected his first two hits of the season), Gwynn took a slider from Schlereth for strike one. Gwynn then checked his swing on another slider. Third base umpire Paul Nauert ruled that he held up, although replays suggest otherwise. Now with a 1-1 count, Schlereth threw three straight balls to Gwynn. One wonders if the outcome might have been different had he been working with an 0-2 count.
Gwynn wasn’t the only one seeing the ball well. The entire offense came out to play. Although the Padres couldn’t score against Scherzer, they were patient enough to force him out of the game after 5 innings and 104 pitches. Then came the Arizona bullpen — that tasty, tasty bullpen — and the Padres got serious.
For as much as I enjoyed the six-run outburst (and oh, how I enjoyed it), I liked what followed even better. Luke Gregerson came on in the seventh and retired the side in order. Two strikeouts (Eric Byrnes and Chris Snyder swung at filthy sliders well off the plate) and a grounder to second.
Edward Mujica gave up his first run since April 30 on a two-out solo homer to Justin Upton, who crushed a 2-2 fastball to center and deposited it in the beach area. Hey, you’re up four in the eighth, might as well challenge hitters. Upton is a great talent, and guys with great talent sometimes deposit fastballs into the beach area. Get the next guy, which Mujica did.
The Padres drew eight walks on the night, tying their season high in regulation games this year (they drew 12 in that 16-inning affair against the Reds a few weeks ago). All eight came from the first four batters, including two to Adrian, who has drawn two or more in each of the past five games. During that stretch, of the 92 pitches he’s seen, only 33 (35.9%) have been strikes.
As a team, the Padres’ walk rate is up significantly this season, reversing a four-year downward trend:
|Through games of June 7, 2009|
We’ll have to keep watching this, but at least through the first two months, the organizational philosophy of a patiently aggressive approach at the plate appears to be in effect. The next step is to score more runs.
* * *
I should say a few words about the 2009 draft, which starts this Tuesday at 3 p.m. PT. First, I haven’t been following as closely this year as in seasons past. Second, from what I’ve heard about the players expected to be available and of interest to the Padres at #3, here is my wish list:
Tate will be a difficult sign, but I like the tools. Crow strikes me as a reasonable compromise if the Padres decide not to pursue Tate; the guy is a potential impact arm, which is something the organization lacks beyond Mat Latos. Regarding Minor, I’m sick of these polished left-handers that work in the high-80s. Time to try something new.
As for draft coverage, hundreds of “experts” have cropped up in recent years. If you are interested in their opinions, I suggest trying Google. My further advice would be to learn a little about the sources before placing your trust in them. When in doubt, stick with the usual suspects: MLB.com, Baseball America, etc.
* * *
Sunday’s contest went 18 innings and ended in defeat, but the team battled, which is all I ever ask. That and wins, but sometimes you can’t have both.
Geer pitched well for four innings and then started falling behind hitters in the fifth. As he reminded us, guys who work with a mid-80s fastball can’t afford to do that. Arizona scored four that inning and two the next against Thatcher to take a 6-0 lead.
Positives from Geer’s outing? He picked two runners off first base. Dude has quick feet. He should talk to Chris Young (the Padres pitcher, not the guy Geer picked off in the third).
Dan Haren, meanwhile, was busy mowing through the lineup. I turned to watch John Mayer channel Jimi on the Tonight Show (thanks, TiVo), and missed Kouzmanoff’s home run.
At some point I figured it was safe to return, and I watched the Padres mount a rally against the Arizona bullpen in the eighth. After the first two batters made out, Gwynn lined a double to center. Edgar Gonzalez drew a walk, but on ball four, Gwynn was caught stealing third to end the inning.
Oh, and Adrian was on deck. Steve Lyons would be proud.
No matter, because the Padres scored five in the ninth to tie. Juan Gutierrez, who nearly blew the May 26 contest against the Padres, lit the fuse again. Adrian doubled to lead off the inning and Headley singled him home. Giles walked and Kouzmanoff then almost went yard again, taking Chris Young to the wall in center.
Exit Gutierrez, enter Chad Qualls. Hundley chopped a grounder to the left of third baseman Mark Reynolds, who made a diving stop but whose throw to first arrived too late. Headley scored, cutting the lead to 6-3.
After Chris Burke made the second out, Eckstein came off the bench. He swung at the first pitch he saw — a hanging sinker — and hooked it down the left-field line for a three-run homer to tie the game.
Well. There’s something you don’t see… ever.
In extra innings, Arizona had numerous opportunities to take the lead but couldn’t make it happen until the 18th, when the Padres ran out of pitchers and were forced to stick shortstop Josh Wilson on the mound.
Throwing mostly fastballs in the 86-89 mph range, Wilson came within a strike of escaping the inning unscathed. With two on and two out, he jumped ahead of Reynolds, 0-2. After working the count full, Reynolds lofted a ball to right field that kept carrying and bounced off the top of the auxiliary scoreboard for a three-run homer.
Former Padres farmhand Leo Rosales retired his old team in order in the bottom half, game over. Give props to the Diamondbacks bullpen. Here’s a log of their games against San Diego this year:
|Through games of June 7, 2009|
That’s a 6.97 ERA. Sounds bad, but it was much worse (9.82) before they tossed nine straight no-hit innings to conclude Sunday’s contest.
What a time for the Arizona bullpen to solve Padres hitters, eh? It’s funny; you see Eckstein hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer with two out in the ninth and figure you’re destined to see your team win. Turns out you’re just destined to see a great ballgame.
* * *
I don’t know where Laura went. I don’t know where the Padres are going. Some days I care; others, not so much. I would make all the endings happy if I could, but I am awake two-thirds of the time, in a world where my vote doesn’t count.
Oh well. Here we are.