Getting a late start on a lazy Saturday. I wasn’t planning to write today, but how can I not say a few words about the season’s best game so far?
It didn’t start out that way. Most of the night was an exercise in frustration. As Tim Hudson did on Thursday, Edwin Jackson had trouble throwing strikes. As they did with Hudson, the Padres had trouble making Jackson pay for his mistakes. They either helped him out by swinging at bad pitches (in their defense, his slider was biting hard) or got victimized by some fantastic glovework.
On the flip side, Jon Garland… I need to start recording his starts. Sometimes I have trouble falling asleep at night and nothing seems to help. I’m pretty sure a few innings (or even batters) of Garland would do the trick.
I’m nitpicking here, but I would like to see Garland add “throw the damn ball” to his repertoire. I imagine the guys collecting dust behind him might feel the same way… assuming they feel anything after standing around for so long.
Chase Headley, who had a rough 8 2/3 innings, committed two errors. One was changed to a base hit. It was a tough play to his backhand side, but makeable. He had the ball, then lost a game of patty-cake to it.
On the other error, in the fifth, left fielder Kyle Blanks made a nice play backing up Headley and nailed batter Justin Upton trying to take second. An inning earlier, Blanks nailed Conor Jackson at second on a drive to left-center. Blanks cut the ball off while moving to his left, spun, and fired a strike to David Eckstein, who applied the tag and held it as Jackson tumbled past the bag.
At some point, other teams will stop being surprised by Blanks’ athleticism. Until then, they’ll keep doing stupid stuff to make him prove it, which is fine.
Blanks also had some solid plate appearances, lashing a single to right in the second and a double to left-center in the seventh that skipped past a startled Gerardo Parra, who may not have expected the ball to be hit so hard. Blanks’ best work, though, came in the eighth, when he spat on a tough 3-2 pitch from Aaron Heilman with the bases loaded to cut Arizona’s lead to 3-2.
Meanwhile, the Padres bullpen did a stellar job (4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 BB, 5 K). So did the Diamondbacks bullpen (2.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 1 K)… if you’re a Padres fan. Those guys were brutal.
On the heels of Bobby Howry and Heilman, who lit the match, came “closer” Juan Gutierrez (you may recall him from that insane game last June 7) with his gas can. Gutierrez opened the ninth by walking Nick “I Will Flail at Breaking Balls Down and Away if You Just Give Me a Chance” Hundley after jumping ahead in the count, 0-2. Pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston Jr. followed with a sacrifice bunt.
After Gutierrez got Everth Cabrera to chase the slider Hundley should have seen, Eckstein whacked the next pitch just beyond the outstretched glove of Parra for a game-tying double. As I tweeted (excuse me!), grit happens.
Somewhere, a stathead lost its wings.
Then, as Padres fans saw all too often in 2009, Adrian Gonzalez was intentionally walked, bringing up Headley. As Padres fans didn’t see often enough last year, the man behind Gonzalez made the opposition pay, swatting a 1-1 fastball deep into the right-field seats to end the game.
Headley admired his shot a bit and threw the bat. He may get plunked for that public display of ass-whooping, but it was for a worthy cause.
The only downside of this victory is that it left me wired. Fortunately I was able to fall asleep, although worst case, I could have watched the rebroadcast of Garland’s first inning. I’m certain that would have put me out cold.