Five wins in a row. A share of first place. Sweet? No, spicy; vaguely like doner kebab.
Some days you get only one hit. Some days, that’s all you need. On Tuesday, against the Giants, it was enough.
Ladies and gentlemen, break up the Padres. (Oops, shouldn’t say that out loud… it could happen, you know.)
Mat Latos pitched a terrific game. Only two strikeouts (back-to-back to end the fifth), but did you notice all the ground balls? All 13 of them? Yummy.
Guys did not get comfortable hacks against Latos at all. Well, Pablo Sandoval did, but he’s Pablo Sandoval.
Latos walked the first batter he faced, Eugenio Velez, and then didn’t issue another free pass the rest of the night. The stadium scoreboard had Latos’ fastball at 92-97 mph, and he mixed his pitches well. He needed just 93 of them to get through 7 innings. Love that efficiency.
Edgar Renteria helped, hitting into two key double plays. The first meant that Sandoval batted with nobody on in the first. The second came with the bases loaded in the third and kept Sandoval from batting at all, which is pretty much the key to beating the Giants. The fewer at-bats that guy gets where he can hurt you, the better. What a beast.
Meanwhile, back on defense, another day, another game-saving play by David Eckstein. With Sandoval on third and two out, John Bowker hit a soft liner into shallow center field, but Eckstein intercepted it to end the inning. I had already conceded the run. Good thing it wasn’t me playing second base, eh?
Chase Headley collected the Padres’ lone hit of the evening, a clean single back through the middle to start the fourth. He promptly stole second (his third swipe of the game; he read Jonathan Sanchez like a Harlequin Romance — I don’t know what that means, just pretend it made sense… and stop thinking about Fabio), then advanced to third on a foul pop off the bat of Kyle Blanks that sent Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff into the camera well. Scott Hairston followed with a fly ball to right that was deep enough to plate Headley, who for one night was a terror on the basepaths (first to steal three bags in a game for the Padres since Dave Roberts did it on May 8, 2006).
The rains came in the fifth. Not enough to stop the action, just thin sheets of mist drifting in from off the bay, moving through the park, and disappearing beyond the right-field fence like so many ghosts. Coffee never tasted so good. The ink on my scorecard ran, which makes it more difficult to read but also gives it character.
Sanchez threw great for the Giants, who failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities. Former Padres skipper Bruce Bochy seemed a bit flummoxed, or maybe he was miffed… hard to tell the difference.
At least the Giants had one thing going for them: plenty of fans. When Nate Schierholtz led off the eighth with a booming triple to left-center off Mike Adams, a large and vocal contingent behind the vistors dugout began chanting, “Let’s Go Giants.”
The Giants, bless them, did as ordered and went. Away. Quietly.
Adams got Eli Whiteside on an easy grounder to Headley at third. Pinch-hitter Bengie Molina followed with a harmless pop to first base. Then Adams did his best Trevor Hoffman impression and fanned Velez on change-ups to end the threat.
A man on third with nobody out typically results in about a run and a half. Apparently Adams just needed the challenge.
The Giants and their fans made noise again in the ninth, putting runners at the corners with one out against Heath Bell, but Bell got Juan Uribe (who homered off Bell a night earlier) to fly to shallow right (Jerry Hairston Jr. delivered a perfect strike to home plate, not that pinch-runner Andres Torres had any intention of doing more than drawing the throw) and struck out Bowker to end the contest.
My only complaint is that, again, there weren’t many Padres fans at the ballpark. It’s only eight dates, but attendance is down about 3700 per game from this time last year.
Maybe winning will help. Of course, this means the Padres have to keep winning. That’s the hard part.