Wait, that David Eckstein? Those Padres?
Yep, the man whose bobblehead was given to fans on Saturday came through in a big way two nights later. After making a sensational diving back-handed grab of a ball off the bat of Bengie Molina in the sixth to save a run, Eckstein led off the 10th by smoking a 1-1 pitch from Giants left-hander Jeremy Affeldt up and over the left-field fence. How Eckstein kept the ball fair, I’ll never know.
The best part? During the postgame interview with Mark Neely, teammates doused Eckstein with a bucket of cold water (Chase Headley got the shaving cream pie after his walk-off earlier in the week; I guess they’re mixing it up a bit). Eckstein remarked that cold water is one of his least favorite things in the world and then continued answering Neely’s question.
What else? Clayton Richard looked sharp. His command sometimes wavers, but not on Monday. He was hitting his spots most of the night, which was good to see. He also crushed a Matt Cain fastball in the fourth, doubling to right-center. Richard fouled off some tough pitches before hitting what second base umpire Greg Gibson originally ruled a home run, although the ball clearly bounced off the warning track dirt.
No replay was necessary, only a little common sense. Richard — who admitted to being “surprised it was called a homer” — got to trot around the bases before being sent back to second. Discussing the play over at Baseball Tonight Live, Nick Pietruszkiewicz called it “one of the worst calls ever” and I can’t disagree.
Did you like the shameless plug for Baseball Tonight Live? One of the benefits of my affiliation with ESPN is that I get to comment on some Padres games with other writers and analysts, as well as interact with fans. I will try to let you know in advance the next time that happens.
The game didn’t look like it was going into extra innings. After Will Venable drove home Kyle Blanks with a sixth-inning sac fly to left-center (left fielder Eugenio Velez crashing into center fielder Andres Torres and disrupting Torres’ throw to the plate helped; come to think of it, Velez was instrumental that inning, as he also kicked around Blanks’ “triple” to start the frame), Luke Gregerson retired all five batters he faced. Everything was grand until Heath Bell hung a 3-2 curve ball to Juan Uribe, who drove it just over the left-field fence to tie the game.
Speaking of Venable, which we were very briefly, yesterday I noted that it seems like he hasn’t seen many fastballs since the home opener and I asked someone to check the data. Daniel at Friar Forecast was good enough to oblige and found that “the difference [in number of fastballs before and after that game] is not statistically significant.”
Hypothesize. Test. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The punch line is that in the first Venable at-bat I saw on Monday, he waved at three Cain change-ups for a strikeout. As Daniel observed, “It’s interesting how all too often our eyes deceive us when watching baseball.” To which I add, “or anything else.”
Where was I? Right, Bell hung the curve ball. Extra innings. Pablo Sandoval hit what he thought was a home run in the top of the 10th, driving a Tim Stauffer offering to the wall in left field, where it landed harmlessly in Kyle Blanks’ glove.
I like to imagine Eckstein and Sandoval sitting down for a glass of milk after the game, with Eckstein explaining how to hit the ball out of Petco Park.
I’m not sure how often I’ll get to say this in 2010, but the Padres are now above .500 and in second place. A win Tuesday night pushes them into a first-place tie with the Giants. Mat Latos faces Jonathan Sanchez. Maybe more than 17,000 people will show up for this one. And maybe more of them will be Padres fans.
That would be nice. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must tend to my bobblehead.