Padres Take Two in Houston, Give Third Away

One of the hazards of watching a lot of games at Petco Park is a skewed sense of how hard a ball needs to be struck to leave the yard. I caught a few innings of a Mets-Phillies game on TV the other night, and baseballs were flying out of Citizens Bank Park. I had to chuckle because that is not the way we experience the game here in San Diego.

On Friday night in Houston, Scott Hairston homered to left to lead off the third inning. He hit the ball hard, a low line drive, but that’s an out in most venues. Chase Headley hit one out to right a few batters later that I’m not sure would have reached the warning track at Petco Park.

(Imagine my disappointment when Adrian Gonzalez’s drive on an 0-2 delivery from Astros starter Bud Norris fell just short in the fourth. How spoiled I had become in the span of an hour or so. If it’s in the air, it should be a home run. Isn’t that how baseball is played in other parts of the country, or at least at the ballpark where Damian Jackson once hit a broken-bat grand slam?)

Mat Latos spun a gem (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K). He needed just 107 pitches, which is great to see, although it is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the Astros are among the most hackingest teams in the land (through Saturday’s games, in the National League, only the Giants had seen fewer than Houston’s 3.75 pitches per plate appearance; the Padres, incidentally, rank first in MLB at 4.07).

Latos allowed two singles, one a line drive off the glove of Jerry Hairston Jr. diving to his left, the other a little squibber up the third base line that Latos fielded but whose throw to first trailed Carlos Lee by half a step. Latos also knocked two doubles, continuing the trend of good hitting by Padres pitchers (.236/.333/.309 through Saturday, highest OPS in the NL).

Ryan Webb, up from Portland to replace the injured Sean Gallagher, worked a scoreless ninth to preserve the shutout and the victory. Webb entered with a 7-0 lead, creating a sense of comfort that one never enjoyed with Gallagher, whose ability to supply the opposition with opportunity is impressive, if not entirely appreciated.

* * *

On the heels of Latos’ strong start, Jon Garland followed suit, allowing two hits over seven innings, using just 83 pitches (hackety hack hack). The offense never got going in this one, but two runs proved to be enough for victory.

Adrian Gonzalez (.152/.263/.152 in 38 PA from April 29 to May 8 ) and Kyle Blanks (.190/.320/.381 in 25 PA) have been mired in horrific slumps. There are whispers that one of them could be shipped to Triple-A Portland. Which one is left as an exercise for the reader.

I spent most of the afternoon traipsing around Clairemont and Kearny Mesa, with the inevitable stop at Book-Off, where I scored several sweet reads:

  • Scott Adams, Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel
  • Friend of Ducksnorts Troy Johnson, Family Outing
  • Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
  • Stanley Stewart, In the Empire of Genghis Khan
  • Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write

I love Book-Off, but it’s a dangerous place. I always end up with more stuff (George Carlin alert; some language may offend those offended by language).

* * *

Some losses are excusable; this was not one of them.

Kevin Correia was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday due to the death of his younger brother. My condolences go out to the Correia family.

Tim Stauffer took Correia’s place and did an admirable job in his first start of the year, working five scoreless innings and driving home two runs with a fifth-inning double. Edward “Dont Let My High Fastballs into a Small Ballpark” Mujica coughed up back-to-back homers to Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence in the sixth. Houston then tied the game in the ninth on an unearned run off closer Heath Bell and won it in the 11th against Webb.

Gonzalez, who didn’t start due to a sore right shoulder, entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth. The next inning, after pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar led off with a single, Gonzalez… wait for it… laid down a sacrifice bunt. That was the third sacrifice of Gonzalez’s career. All three have come in Padres losses.

I normally advise caution when working with such small samples, but in this case I will make an exception. I never want to see Gonzalez bunt a runner over again. Ever.

More things happened, most of them bad. The Padres blew the game. I don’t want to talk about it.

* * *

The Padres head to San Francisco next for three against the Giants starting Tuesday night. Here’s hoping for less stupid baseball.

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8 Responses »

  1. Very frustrating loss. Even a sore and slumping Gonzalez can hit a ball out of Houston with a fungo bat. If you’re going to bunt Salazar over, use a SP and preserve your flexibility.

    This season has been a more-than-pleasant surprise so far, but every loss makes me wonder if the other shoe is about to drop. Maybe that’ll stop around July.

  2. I like to think of Sunday’s game as a moral victory. In the three previous games the Padres had struck out in double digits (13/11/10) but on Sunday slashed this number to…..9 ;)

    Nothing says little league better than air-mailing a throw into the stands. That was a game they should have had.

    Weird things happen across 162 games. On to San Francisco!

  3. Jerry Hairston’s fielding hasn’t bothered me much. It’s not great, but it’s not horrible either. His hitting, though, has been God-Awful. Our pitchers have contributed more to run-creation than Jerry. This team needs Cabrera back really, really badly. Especially a healthy Cabrera.

    Oh, and please get rid of Mujica. The guy is serving up nearly 3 HR/9. That’s just unacceptable. Adam Russell, please.

  4. In Mujica’s defense, he’s only pitched in a handful of innings.

  5. Mujica is having trouble finding the plate with his fastball and compensating by throwing way too many split finger fastballs. Stop trying to be so fine with your pitches, get a first strike across and leave the split for a knockout punch later in the count.

  6. I will take the hit for the loss. I tuned in in the bottom of the 6th (Yes, caught a part of the game live!) and watched Mujica serve up the back-to-back shots. I continuted to watch until the bottom of the 9th, even though it was past my bedtime, but I went to bed after Jerry allowed the run to score. What a horrendous play! Small consolation in seeing a game live when you only catch the lowlights! :-(

    I am SO OFF the bandwagon! ;-)

  7. Zach … no one’s a bigger Adam Russell fan than me … have you seen what he’s doing in AAA? It’s not good enough to get a callup, imo … unless, of course, they call him up today to take Correia’s spot on the roster …

  8. Mujica isn’t a terrible pitcher, he just gets abused in small ballparks, where those pitches up in the zone turn into home runs. His home/road splits from last year are revealing:

    Home: 211 PA, .258/.295/.369, .111 ISO, 52.8 PA/HR
    Road: 182 PA, .291/.319/.523, .232 ISO, 18.2 PA/HR

    That’s basically the difference between Pat Borders and Alfonso Soriano.