Life has kept me from watching as much baseball as I would like in recent weeks. Nothing serious… I mean, it’s just life after all.
I did manage to catch bits and pieces of the series in Denver. It should come as no great surprise that I have some thoughts on the games, nor that I will now share those with the rest of the class.
The Padres did a nice job of making Rockies starter Jeff Francis work. Fresh off the disabled list and on a 60ish-pitch limit, Francis needed 34 pitches to make it through the first. Even though the Padres scored just two runs that inning, they forced him to use a lot of bullets and make Jim Tracy lift the left-hander after three.
Jerry Hairston Jr. set the tone, working the count full before grounding out to lead off the game. After an Aaron Cunningham infield single (I cannot get over how quickly he gets down the line), Miguel Tejada came up and had the at-bat of the inning — of the night, really — fouling off several Francis offerings before slamming a two-run homer directly onto the concourse in left field on the 10th pitch. Great approach, great result.
I can no longer say, with a straight face, that I am surprised by Tejada. He has been doing this long enough now that I have come to expect good things from him. But yeah, it’s still a little weird.
Tejada drove in two more runs in his third trip to the plate. I’d love to give him all the credit, but reliever Esmil Rogers helped. After getting ahead of Tejada, 1-2, on a nasty slider down, Rogers left a fastball out over the plate that Tejada whacked up the middle for a single. You can fool the old man with breaking stuff, but he still gets around on the heater.
I had to leave and run some errands after the fourth, so I missed Cory Luebke’s meltdown. I will say that I’m sick of Troy Tulowitzki — have been since the day he slammed his first big-league homer to dead center at Petco Park on an 0-2 pitch from Woody Williams in the Josh Barfield Game. As far as I’m concerned, Tulowitzki can leave the National League West right now… and he’s welcome to take Justin Upton with him.
The bullpen did a stellar job. Ernesto Frieri notched his first big-league victory by bailing out Luebke in the fifth. Everyone else was nails, including Luke Gregerson, who seems to have gotten over his funk.
The Padres also benefited from a critical baserunning error by Colorado in the first. With Dexter Fowler on first, Carlos “Dante Bichette Was Robbed of the MVP in ’95″ Gonzalez grounded a single to right. Fowler, whom you may have noticed is very fast, raced around to third and made it easily… which makes Ryan Ludwick’s decision to throw there all the more puzzling (clever, stupid, fine lines, etc.).
Chase Headley, showing good instincts, made no effort whatsoever to tag Fowler, choosing instead to run toward the ball and act as his own cutoff man. He caught the ball and fired a strike to second to nab a streaking Gonzalez, which changed the entire complexion of the inning. (Tulowitzki was on deck, and although he struck out to end the frame, his coming to bat with one on and two out was much more appealing than with two on and one out.)
Oh, and in the ninth, the Padres padded their lead thanks to a pinch-hit homer by Oscar Salazar. He’s still on the team. Who knew?
Jon Garland picked a good time to stop sucking, eh? This game shouldn’t have been close. The Padres used and abused Colorado starter Jason Hammel, who kept the game close thanks to some timely double plays off the bats of Padres. It’s hard to put nine runners on base in three innings and come away with just two runs.
Nice of Matt Stairs to join the party, too. His two-run pinch-hit homer in the eighth turned out to be huge. Very quietly, Stairs has seen his numbers return to respectability. Since August 14, he is hitting .412/.524/.882. Granted, that’s over 21 plate appearances, but it’s also pretty good… shades of John Vander Wal in ’98.
Edgmer Escalona gave up a run in the ninth after failing to cover first base on a ground ball to Todd Helton. He almost gave up more when Heath Bell (!) whacked a 3-2 pitch into right fielder Seth Smith’s glove for the final out. Bell had a nice at-bat; I was yelling for that ball to go over Smith’s head. My yells seldom have any effect on the landing point of physical objects, but you never know… next time might be the first.
Bell himself was brutal on the mound. By his own admission, he had nothing. And yet, he managed to save the game.
Jay Payton (I was hoping for Johnny Grubb, but no such) pulled the Rockies to within one run with a pinch-hit single. He made it to second with one out before Eric Young Jr. grounded into his first double play of the season to end the contest.
Meanwhile, up in San Francisco, the Giants held the Dodgers to one hit… and lost. Second time the Giants have done that this year… first came against the Padres (Mat Latos vs Jonathan Sanchez).
Thanks to the Dodgers for getting their act together, if only for a night. Thanks also to Juan Uribe for committing the error that allowed Reed Johnson to score the game’s only run.
So much for the sweep. I’m glad to see Bud Black hasn’t lost his sense of humor, though. It’s a long season and you need to keep laughing in the face of adversity. I assume that’s why he brought Edward Mujica in to face Tulowitzki with two on and the Padres down, 6-2, in the fourth.
You don’t need me to deliver the punch line. It’s as obvious as a pie to the face or a banana peel on the floor. Damn funny, too.
Unless you happen to be Mujica. Then it’s just kind of mean… like an anvil to the head.
Wile E. Mujica. I picture him throwing the pitch to Tulowitzki, then holding up a cardboard sign that says, “Help!”
Still, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and many of us needed the chuckle. Could it have been funnier? Sure, Black could have tracked down Sean Burroughs and gotten him some work.
Come to think of it, I’m not sure if that’s funnier or meaner. Or if it matters.
On the bright side, the Padres leave Coors Field with a series victory. On the even brighter side, they leave Coors Field, period.
Next stop, St. Louis. Back to real baseball. Wins would be good.