The first seven innings of Tuesday night’s comeback victory over the Rockies provided an exercise in frustration for the home team and its fans. The Padres put runners on every inning, and got at least one man into scoring position in each of the fourth through seventh innings, yet plated just one run.
Colorado starter Greg Smith walked five batters in five innings, and none of them scored. The Padres kept bailing him and his successors out with shoddy baserunning, from David Eckstein getting caught stealing (worst slide ever!) on a 3-1 swinging strike to Adrian Gonzalez in the first, to Scott Hairston getting picked off first the next inning, to Kyle Blanks getting thrown out at home to end the sixth on a pitch that skipped past catcher Miguel Olivo. Where the baserunning didn’t cost the Padres, lack of timely hitting did, most notably when Chase Headley rapped into a 6-3 double play with runners at the corners to end the seventh.
Wade LeBlanc pitched an okay game. Not great, but okay. He was lights out the first time through the lineup, then ran into a little trouble in the fourth inning, although his defense didn’t do him any favors. With Todd Helton at first base, Troy Tulowitzki grounded to his counterpart, Jerry Hairston, Jr., for what looked to be a double play. I haven’t seen the replays, but from Section 303, it looked like Hairston gave Eckstein a poor feed, causing the return throw to first to arrive just a shade late. The Rockies eventually loaded the bases with one out, but LeBlanc got Olivo to ground into a 5-2 fielder’s choice (Headley charged and fired home on a slow chopper to nab Tulowitzki at the plate — Headley made several nice plays and continues to look more comfortable back at the hot corner) before fanning Ian Stewart to escape without damage.
As you might imagine, for Padres fans, the final two innings were a blast. Bud Black had his managerial mojo working. Lifting Blanks for Will Venable with nobody on and one out in the eighth against right-hander Manuel Corpas worked like a charm. Venable attacked an 0-2 slider down and out of the zone, smacking it to right-center for a triple. Jerry Hairston Jr. followed with a sacrifice fly to right that tied the ballgame.
Then in the ninth, Black sent fellow SDSU alum Lance Zawadzki up to bat for Heath Bell, who had worked a scoreless ninth (after Luke Gregerson shut down the Rockies the previous two innings). Zawadzki coaxed a walk from Rockies left-hander Franklin Morales. After Tony Gwynn Jr. sacrificed the runner to second and Eckstein flied to left, Gonzalez stepped to the plate. Morales fell behind, 3-0, and then delivered an intentional ball four, bringing up Headley, who needed some redemption after his double play in the seventh. As he did a couple weeks ago against Arizona, Headley came through in a big way, swatting a Morales offering into right-center and driving home Zawadzki for the game winner.
At some point, teams will stop pitching around Gonzalez to face Headley. As Corey Brock noted on Twitter, Headley is now 3-for-3 with 7 RBI following an intentional walk to Gonzalez this year. I can live with that.
In other news, the Padres have placed right-hander Sean Gallagher on the DL with a “sprained toe on his left foot.” Right-hander Ryan Webb has been recalled to take his spot on the roster, which means Black has one more usable arm in non-blowouts. I don’t doubt the severity of Gallagher’s injury, but that sure was convenient.
- The Padres have stolen 31 bases so far this year. In 2009, they swiped their 31st bag in a June 28 contest against the Rangers.
- Gwynn has a higher ISO (.113) than Headley (.084).
- So does Eckstein (.087). I love small samples.
- Zawadzki is the all-time leader in hits among Padres whose last name begins with Z. He broke the record, previously held by nobody, with his first big-league knock against ex-Padre Randy Wolf on Sunday.
- With his third-inning single on Tuesday, LeBlanc hit safely in four consecutive at-bats. He grounded out in the fourth, dropping his average to .625.
- Opponents are hitting .115/.148/.135 against Gregerson this year.
The Padres seek their sixth straight series win on Wednesday. Clayton Richard and Aaron Cook hook up at the usual time tonight. With luck, I will be chatting again on Baseball Tonight Live, so swing by if you can.