Jeff Smith 12:15 p.m., April 24
Nick Hundley is hitless so far, nada in 19 at-bats, a far cry from the end of last season. Hundley's a proven good hitter. Jesus Guzman, last year's Padres leader in hitting, struck out three times Thursday evening. In fact, no one on the Padres has been swinging the bat well at all so far.
Aside from Hundley and Guzman, many of the Padres hitters appear to be pressing. Pressing at the plate is the difference between batting aggressively and feeling a sense of desperation. There are only two known cures for a hitter that is pressing. The hitter either suddenly starts hitting, or they take some time off to clear their head and start with a new approach.
On Friday night at Dodger Stadium, Black made a few changes and shook up the starting lineup, at least for one game. Backup catcher John Baker started in place of Hundley, and Jeremy Hermida took left field while Jesus Guzman sat. The results were mixed - errors continue to take a toll as the Padres now lead the league in misplays, although the team did manage to get nine hits off of Dodgers pitching. Padres hitters also struck out 18 times, and lead the majors in that category as well.
Thirteen of those strikeouts were logged by Dodgers starting pitcher Aaron Harang, who the Padres had beaten soundly only last Sunday. It became a wild game after Harang left in the seventh and was tied going into the bottom of the ninth inning. The Padres then found a new way to lose, walking in the winning run in the bottom of the last frame and the Dodgers beat the Padres, 9-8.
For Harang, after giving up a lead-off single to Cameron Maybin, he proceeded to set a Dodgers franchise record by consecutively striking out the next nine Padres he faced. Harang looked to enter the fourth inning with a strikeout to tie Tom Seaver's league record of 10 in a row, but Will Venable's home run spared the Padres of a dubious distinction in the record books.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers had already plated four runs in the bottom of the third inning. After Padres starter Clayton Richard walked Justin Sellers, a fielding error by Padres shortstop Jason Bartlett on what would have otherwise been a routine double-play, put runners on first and second with nobody out. After a foul bunt out, a ground ball by Tony Gwynn, Jr. moved the runners to 2nd and third.
Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis then hit a ground ball to the right of Padres second baseman Orlando Hudson, which Hudson fielded cleanly but threw late to get Ellis. Meanwhile, Justin Sellers scored, and inexplicably, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis scored from second base as the throw from Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso to padres catcher John Baker came late.
And it didn't end there. After walks to Matt Kemp and then Juan Rivera to load the bases, Andre Ethier then singled, scoring Ellis and Kemp, making the score 4-0. Juan Uribe then ground out to end the inning.
In the top of the fourth inning after the home run by Venable, Chase Headley walked and Yonder Alonso doubled in Headley, cutting the Dodgers lead in half. A ground ball out by Jeremy Hermida moved Alonso to third base, and another ground out by Orlando Hudson plated Alonso, bring the Padres to within a run after 3 1/2 innings.
The Dodgers then blew it open in the bottom of the fourth. Back-to-back doubles by Sellers and A.J. Ellis scored Sellers, and Harang then sacrificed A.J. Ellis to third. Tony Gwynn, Jr. then singled home A.J. Ellis. After Mark Ellis flied out, Matt Kemp belted a 2-run home run to center field, and the Dodgers led the Padres 8-3 after four innings.
The Padres waited until the seventh inning to get busy. With one out, Harang walked Padres catcher John Baker and Harang was replaced with Dodgers reliever Todd Coffey, and that was the spark for the Padres comeback. Bartlett singled to center, and then Chris Denorfia - pinch hitting for Clayton Richard - hit a clutch double to right and Baker scored and Bartlett took third base to make it 8-4, Dodgers.
After Cameron Maybin was hit on the elbow by a pitch to load the bases, the Dodgers replaced Coffey with left-handed pitcher Scott Elbert to face left-handed hitting Venable. Buddy Black then countered by sending right-handed hitting Jesus Guzman to the plate. Guzman walked off of Elbert, scoring Jason Bartlett, and then Chase Headley hit a sacrifice fly to center field scoring Denorfia, closing the gap to 8-6 after Alonso struck out swinging.
The Padres threatened and came up empty in the top of the eighth, but the top of the ninth opened with Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen walking Chris Denorfia. After striking out pinch-hitters Andy Parrino and Kyle Blanks, Jansen then faced Chase Headley who hit his second home run of the season and the score was tied 8-8. Alonso doubled and Jeremy Hermida was intentionally walked, but Orlando Hudson struck out to end the inning.
With Andrew Cashner taking the mound for the Padres in the bottom of the ninth inning, Dodgers pinch hitter Dee Gordon struck out and Tony Gwynn, Jr. ground out to short. Only needing one out to extend the game, Cashner proceeded to walk the next three Dodgers batters. Faced with left-handed hitting Andre Ethier, Buddy Black brought on left-handed hitting Joe Thatcher to try and get Ethier. Thatcher walked Ethier on four straight pitches and walked in the winning run.
Live by the walk, die by the walk.
Cameron Maybin was pinch hit for in the ninth inning, reportedly because after he was hit by a pitch in the elbow in the seventh inning he had trouble swinging a bat. Assume that Maybin is day-to-day unless announced otherwise.
Saturday, pitcher Joe Wieland for the Padres will make his major league debut, going up against Ted Lilly of the Dodgers. Just before acquired in a trade with the Texas Rangers with Robbie Erlin for Padres reliever Mike Addams, Wieland pitched a complete game no-hitter at the AA Frisco RoughRiders in the Texas League. First pitch is at 6:05 PM, and can be watched on Cox Cable or DirecTV via Fox Sports San Diego, or you can listen on radio XX 1090 AM.