Two out of three in Cincy? Sure, another sweep would have been nice, but I’ll take it. We are perhaps getting spoiled by the early success, no? (Oops, I see my inner Hercule Poirot has escaped again.)
Wade LeBlanc pitched a gem on Saturday, which I certainly didn’t expect in that ballpark. After tossing six shutout innings, LeBlanc has created something of a problem — an admittedly nice problem — in terms of what to do when Chris Young returns to the rotation.
LeBlanc got help from the Reds, who ran themselves out of several innings. He picked off Brandon Phillips in the fourth and Johnny Gomes in the fifth. In the third, opposing pitcher Johnny Cueto, running from first with two out, strayed past second base on a grounder that Drew Stubbs beat out for a base hit. Cueto evidently assumed that the throw had beaten Stubbs and the inning was over. He got caught in a rundown and was tagged out by Chase Headley to end the threat.
Two guys I’m expecting big things from this year — Headley and Will Venable — made strong contributions in this one. Headley went 3-for-4 with a double, while Venable knocked his fourth homer of the young season, a two-run shot down the right-field line in the sixth against Cueto.
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Made it up to The Diamond on Saturday night to watch the Storm score a come-from-behind victory. Actually, we left after the ninth, when the game was still tied, but the big story was right-hander Anthony Bass, who no-hit the High Desert Mavericks for 5 2/3 innings. His fastball sat 90-93 mph most of the evening, topping at 94 (twice in the second inning), and he mixed in a nice slider and straight change.
Best moment of the night: With two out in the ninth, and his team down, 2-1, Blake Tekotte singles to center. With Cole Figueroa at the plate, Tekotte twice tries to swipe second base but Figueroa fouls the pitches off. After the second attempt, Tekotte clutches his left hamstring and the trainer comes out to look at him. Tekotte stays in the game and steals second. This isn’t a ploy, mind you; he gets a great jump and goes in standing despite being in obvious discomfort (Yefri Carvajal, who spent most of the evening coaching at first base, would later come in to replace Tekotte). Figueroa then singles to right, plating Tekotte to tie the game. Vince Belnome crushes the next pitch to deepest center but it dies on the warning track to force extra innings.
Worst moment: In the third, Allan Dykstra is tossed from the game for arguing a called third strike from plate umpire Blake Davis, who was having a rough night. Next inning, Bass just misses on a pitch, prompting one yahoo in the crowd to yell, “The guy is throwing a no-hitter; why don’t you throw him out, too!” Seldom have I been less proud to call myself a fan.
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Meanwhile, back in Cincinnati, Sunday’s contest didn’t go quite as planned. Clayton Richard, staked to a 2-0 lead thanks to YAAGH (yet another Adrian Gonzalez homer), quickly ceded his advantage by failing to throw strikes. With two out in the fourth, he walked Scott Rolen, then gave up three straight singles to tie the game. Again, the only thing that kept the Reds from piling on even more was sloppy baserunning, with ex-Padre Ramon Hernandez being caught in a rundown between first and second after his RBI single to end the frame.
The Padres pushed ahead in the sixth on a two-run opposite field double by Kyle Blanks. He looked lost for most of the week, so that was nice to see. Unfortunately, Richard served up a homer to Rolen in the bottom of the inning to make the score 4-3, and then Mike Adams gave the Reds their first and only lead of the series by coughing up two runs in the eighth.
Incidentally, Venable was charged with a throwing error in that inning, but it really belongs to Gonzalez. Yes, Venable’s throw was high and Gonzalez had to reach for it, but first you secure the ball, then you turn to make the throw. Not that it mattered, but just so you know.
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Overall, it was a solid weekend for the Padres. Reader LynchMob points out that they were the first National League team to reach 11 wins this year but also reminds us that an eight-game winning streak in April may or may not mean much.
Gonzalez and Venable, who looked like they were playing pinball out there, will miss Great American Ballpark. Remarkably, since it opened in 2003, only Adam Dunn has knocked 40 or more homers for the Reds. Granted, he did it four straight seasons, but you’d think someone would pick up the slack in his absence. The ball really carries there, and it’s only April.
I still think the starting pitchers are playing over their collective heads. In 17 games, they’ve posted a combined 2.75 ERA and opponents are hitting just .237/.304/.368 against them (think Royce Clayton, but with a little worse OBP). I’d love to believe that they are this good, but I don’t. There is too much evidence to the contrary. I’ll concede that the rotation is better than I thought it would be, but then, I didn’t think it would be very good, so that’s not exactly the highest standard.
Sunday’s disappointment notwithstanding, the Padres remain in sole possession of first place in the NL West. Next they head to Miami for a three-game set with the Florida Marlins, who are off to a strong start (10-9) of their own. The matchups:
- Mon: Mat Latos vs Josh Johnson, 4:10 p.m. PT
- Tue: Jon Garland vs Anibal Sanchez, 4:10 p.m. PT
- Wed: Kevin Correia vs Nate Robertson, 9:10 a.m. PT
Winning baseball. It’s that thing we like.