The weekend sweep in Pittsburgh sure was nice. On the heels of a series loss in Atlanta, and with the Giants kicking around the Arizona Rollovers, the Padres needed those wins.
Mat Latos, fully recovered from his sneeze, worked six strong innings in Saturday’s 9-2 victory. His fastball came in at its usual 92-95 mph, and he mixed his pitches well.
Latos made two mistakes all night, allowing a solo homer to Jose Tabata in the third and another to Delwyn Young in the fifth. Other than those minor hiccups, it was business as usual for the young right-hander.
Guitar great Steve Miller (before he started his own band and began cranking out the hits, Miller played briefly with Buddy Guy) threw out the ceremonial first pitch and later joined Mark Grant and Dick Enberg in the TV booth for an inning. Miller and his band were scheduled to perform a concert after the game, but he clearly got a kick out of talking baseball with the guys and made a special point to mention how grateful he was to hear Enberg calling the sport again. Miller also joked that he told Pirates starter Jeff Karstens (Mount Miguel HS) to plunk Latos, which got yuks all around.
For his part, Latos wasn’t entirely satisfied with his performance, which I love to see. He reminds me a little of Jake Peavy in that regard — dude wants to succeed in the worst possible way.
You might say that Latos wants to fly like an eagle, and not just take the money and run. Did you see what I did there?
Anywho, the game was close until the eighth, when former Padres right-hander Sean Gallagher entered, allowing all four batters he faced to reach base and score. I don’t miss that act one bit. As I said on Twitter, it was good to see Gallagher to finally come through for the Padres.
On Sunday, Wade LeBlanc wasn’t at his sharpest, but neither were the Pirates. After spotting Pittsburgh an early 2-0 lead, the Padres went to work against starter Brad Lincoln in the third, plating five runs in the inning. Adrian Gonzalez delivered the big blow, a two-run homer to right.
Chris “Mr. July” Denorfia added a solo blast in the seventh. He crushed Lincoln’s final pitch of the afternoon to dead center. I didn’t think the ball had a chance when it left Denorfia’s bat, but it just kept carrying — very Kevin Kouzmanoff-like.
I have to say, I don’t understand the Pirates’ strategy in working to Denorfia and Gonzalez this weekend. On Saturday, with the Padres trailing, 2-1, in the sixth, Denorfia came to bat with a runner on first and nobody out. He tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but Karstens wouldn’t throw him a strike despite the presence of Gonzalez — the one man you can’t let beat you — on deck. After Denorfia walked, Gonzalez singled home the tying run.
Then on Sunday, with a runner on second and one out in the third, Lincoln pitched to Gonzalez, who homered. Not that I’m complaining, but with a base open, how do you not walk Gonzalez and set up the double play for the much less dangerous Chase Headley?
Oh yeah, Denorfia. I call him Mr. July because look at what he’s done this year:
PA BA OBP SLG Apr-Jun 98 .264 .330 .310 Jul 55 .327 .382 .735
Former prospect, hit by injuries, all but forgotten… Denorfia is the new Jody Gerut. Whatever Kevin Towers’ trick was for finding these guys, Jed Hoyer seems to have inherited it. That’s good; it’s a handy trick to know when you’re in charge of the second smallest payroll in MLB.
What else about Sunday’s game. Yorvit Torrealba reached base all four times he came to the plate. He also swiped second on a delayed steal. Nobody even covered; it was beautiful. Torrealba now has five stolen bases on the season, becoming the sixth Padres catcher to reach that mark (joining Gene Tenace, Benito Santiago, Brad Ausmus, Miguel Olivo, and Nick Hundley). The club is both exclusive and utterly meaningless.
Santiago, Ausmus, and Olivo all could run. Hundley doesn’t clog the bases either, but Tenace? The phrase “doubled over with laughter” comes to mind.
Sorry, got sidetracked there. The other thing I wanted to mention about the weekend was the difference between the two teams in terms of executing on defense. While Tony Gwynn Jr. and Scott Hairston were making circus catches in the outfield, Pirates fielders turned routine plays into an adventure.
Tabata and Lastings Milledge took questionable routes on the outfield corners, and the infield corners weren’t much better. Garrett Jones looked lost on more than one occasion at first base, and I’m not sure Pedro Alvarez has ever seen a ball hit to his backhand side at third. If he has, he did an excellent job of disguising it over the weekend.
Either way, the Padres got their sweep and finished the road trip 4-2. They retain the best road record in the National League and a 3 game lead over San Francisco in the NL West.
The Padres are off on Monday, then host the Dodgers and Marlins for three games apiece. Between that and the impending trade deadline, it should be an exciting week.