The pizza is warm, the beer is cold, and the kids behind you are kicking the back of your seat. Their parents have forgotten to teach them how to behave in public. Mat Latos has forgotten how to throw strikes and walks Andrew McCutchen to lead off the game.
Xavier Paul, who didn’t hit enough for a Dodgers team that is desperate for hitters, pops a sacrifice attempt toward third base. Jorge Cantu moves in, dives for the ball, and has it clank off his glove for a single.
Kick… kick… kick…
Moments later, Neil Walker drives home two runs with a double to right-center. The Pirates have scored six runs in the first inning of their first two games at Petco Park this year. They are unimpressed by its reputation as destroyer of offenses.
Monday night, it was home runs by Garrett Jones and Chris Snyder. Tuesday’s display, though less dramatic, produces similar results: a seemingly insurmountable lead.
Kick… kick… kick…
In the bottom of the first, Orlando Hudson drives a ball to deep right-center. He is sprinting toward second and thinking triple all the way but pulls up limping and settles for the double. Manager Bud Black and the trainer emerge from the dugout; Hudson returns with them (strained right hamstring, day-to-day) and is replaced by Eric Patterson, who moves to third on a Ryan Ludwick fly ball and is left there when Cantu strikes out to end the inning.
Kick… kick… kick…
Latos figures out what he’s doing after the first. He still isn’t throwing as many strikes as you’d like (53 of 89 pitches; 59.6%), but neither he is allowing much solid contact.
Leading off the third, perhaps tired of watching and waiting for his teammates to do something, Latos smokes a 2-1 offering from Mount Miguel’s Jeff Karstens 384 feet into the seats beyond left field. It’s the first home run ever hit by a Padres pitcher at Petco Park and the first hit by a Padres pitcher in San Diego since Adam Eaton took Pittsburgh’s (would you believe it?) Jeff D’Amico deep on April 29, 2003.
Two batters later, Patterson homers to dead center. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage (you have fond memories of Searage, who helped push your first Rotisserie League team toward a fourth-place finish back in 1984 after Rollie Fingers got hurt) saunters out to chat with Karstens. It’s a brief chat, the gist of which is: “What you just did… Don’t do that.”
The Padres push ahead, 3-2, on a Cameron Maybin single. You says to Twitter: “Three runs in an inning? Isn’t that a violation of union rules?” You’re not on your game tonight, so this will have to pass for clever.
Latos leaves after six innings, replaced by Luke Gregerson, and you are reminded of 2010. You remember better times, when the Padres bullpen owned the final act. They went 68-7 (.907) when leading after six last year. The MLB average winning percentage when leading after six was .870.
The Padres were automatic for the people. Automatic like Brad Hawpe, but in a good way.
Gregerson walks the leadoff batter, Snyder, who later comes around to score along with two of his compatriots. The Padres now trail, 5-3.
Kick… kick… kick…
You sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” but you do care if you never get back. You’ve had enough of Gregerson, the kids behind you, and their parents. You have to get up in the morning and remain mostly conscious at a desk in a faceless part of town for the better part of a day you’d rather spend elsewhere.
Everyone around you has the same excuse, but most don’t leave. You are lame; you know this, and you don’t care. You are old and entitled to your lameness. You have earned it and are determined to wear it with honor. This also is lame.
Kick… kick… kick…
As you walk toward your car, you hear the crowd erupt behind you. Your first instinct is to assume that something good happened for the visitors because this is San Diego, where nobody root root roots for the home team and it’s a shame. Then you remember that nobody roots for the Pirates either, and you figure maybe even odds.
Something good happened for someone.
You later learn that the Padres tied the game, 5-5, and then took the lead on a Rob Johnson solo home run. You try to calculate the odds that Latos, Patterson, and Johnson would go deep in the same game, in the stingiest ballpark in baseball, but cannot. Your head explodes. It literally explodes, which is disgusting and a bit painful, but at least nobody is kicking your seat.
You arrive home in time to watch Heath Bell walk Brandon Wood. You are upset with Bell for walking the leadoff man, an act that has cost the Padres dearly in this game already. At the same time, you want to congratulate him for accomplishing the impossible. Not everyone can walk a guy like Wood. Much like walking Mariano Duncan, it is very hard to do.
After Wood advances to second on a sacrifice bunt (playing for the tie on the road is a curious decision), Bell bounces a curve ball to Ryan Doumit. Wood bolts for third and is gunned down by Johnson for the second out. Chase Headley, who entered the game while you weren’t looking, makes a terrific scoop and tag on the play.
Doumit then strikes out on another ball in the dirt. Johnson can’t find it but Doumit isn’t running and is thrown out at first to end the game.
Kick… kick… kick…
* * *
- April prognosis (Friar Forecast). Myron recaps the season’s first month.
- NL pleasant surprises: Team-by-team (SweetSpot). I contributed the Padres blurb… tough assignment, believe me.
- Orlando Hudson lashes out at Padres fans for booing the team (Gaslamp Ball). In which jbox offers textual analysis of Hudson’s Twitter posts…
- The Tao of Boo (Sacrifice Bunt). I’ve booed players twice that I can recall, neither of which had anything to do with their performance. I booed Hideki Irabu in Oakland on account of his dissing San Diego, and I booed Bobby Chouinard at Qualcomm Stadium on account of his overzealous Christmas spirit. I get on the umpires every once in a while, but they have a tough job, so my threshold is high. There was a game at Petco Park last year where the plate umpire did a lousy job calling balls and strikes, and we all gave him an earful after pretty much every pitch starting around the fourth inning. That just became comical after a while, though, which suited his interpretation of the strike zone.
- Visiting the Hall of Fame (SweetSpot). Jason Rosenberg draws an important distinction between the institution and the physical place. I’ve mentioned this before, but both times I’ve visited Cooperstown (and it could be that 3000 miles of driving messes with your head), it’s been a transformative experience that makes my quibbles with the institution seem petty. The quibbles aren’t petty, of course, but I forget that while I’m actually there. If you haven’t been, you need to go. Despite the institution’s flaws, the physical place is my Mecca.
- Ted Williams HOF Mini-Review (Mop-Up Duty). San Diego’s Ted Williams has his own Hall of Fame… in St. Petersburg, Fla., of all places… which is where the Tampa Bay Rays play their games, of all places. The connection is obvious, right?
- Major-league radar gun readings susceptible to hijinks (Arizona Republic). Kevin Towers reveals a deep, dark secret from his past:
At Chase Field, the Diamondbacks since 2008 have used the Pitch-f/x readings, which go straight from a computer to the scoreboard, no middle man involved. That’s different from how they used to do things at Petco, where Towers said they would have someone holding a radar gun and manually logging each pitch before it was displayed on the board. And on certain pitchers, he said, the readings weren’t always accurate.
Ever the gamesman…
- When it’s time to go home (ESPN). Doug Glanville references Hall and Oates. Good enough for me. [h/t Watson Files]
- 10th anniversary of David Wells’ most asinine moment (5/3/11) (Hardball Times). This is the one where Wells criticized then-teammate Frank Thomas for not playing through what turned out to be a season-ending injury. I still wish the Red Sox had been able to dump Wells on the Dodgers for Matt Kemp… Not that George Kottaras was any great loss, but can you imagine an NL West without Kemp?
- Roy Halladay, Pitch Counts, And The Televised Revolution (Baseball Nation). From the title, you might think this is another political issue… and you’d be right. A part of me longs for the day when sabermetrics was immature enough not to have an orthodoxy. But that’s the price of growing up, eh? As for pitch counts, my suspicion is that they vastly oversimplify a complex issue. Am I prepared to test that suspicion? Not really.
- Iron Maiden-The Trooper(Bossa Nova Version) (YouTube). This has nothing to do with baseball, but it’s comforting to know that creative and warped people are doing cool stuff on the Internet.