Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
On opening day in Petco Park, Padres starter Edinson Volquez faced Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, in a game where Kershaw left early with an intestinal flu and Volquez momentarily lost the strike zone. The Padres dropped that game 5-3. Sunday would turn out to be a bit different.
Early on, the Padres looked entirely over-matched, much as they did for the at-bats they took against Kershaw the first time around. And Edinson Volquez also had his shaky moments, similar to his first match-up against Matt Kemp and Company. After that, it was nothing but bizarre.
There is this scene in the movie Bull Durham where the team has a meeting on the mound, but before anyone addresses anything, second baseman Jose pleads with the pitcher to not allow anything to be hit to him. Apparently, someone has put a curse on his glove. When someone else offered to remove the curse, Jose proclaimed that only the blood from a live rooster would do the trick.
What it will take for the Padres is anyone's guess. Although most of the games the Padres lost this season have been of their own accord, Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium had curse written all over it. They were poised to take the lead in the ninth inning, but some Ouija Board somewhere guided fate in a completely different direction. The Padres lost to the Dodgers on Sunday, 5-4.
In the bottom of the first inning, Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon reached first base on a beautifully executed swinging bunt. After Mark Ellis walked, Matt Kemp singled on a ball hit to Padres first baseman Jesus Guzman, but Guzman couldn't make a strong throw from having to dive at it, so the bases were loaded. Andre Ethier then smashed a ball toward the right field line, which Guzman made a great play on and threw out Matt Kemp at second base.
Dee Gordon scored on the play, but Guzman's play surely saved at least one and possibly two more runs from scoring. Juan Rivera then hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Ellis. James Loney then popped out, and the Dodgers led after an inning, 2-0, but the damage could have been much worse.
The Padres came back in the top of the third inning, when with one out, Cameron Maybin reached on a fielding error by Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, and then Chris Denorfia doubled Maybin home. Unfortunately, the Padres left Denorfia in scoring position as Chase Headley popped out and Jesus Guzman struck out on a check-swing ruled a swing by the home plate umpire without an appeal.
But the Padres managed to cut the Dodgers lead to 2-1.
The Dodgers then extended their lead in the bottom of the third inning. Matt Kemp continued to terrorize the Padres, smacking his sixth home run of the year over the right-center field wall. Andre Ethier followed with a double, and then Juan Rivera singled to right field and plated Ethier, Rivera reaching second base on an error by Will Venable.
After James Loney flied out, Juan Uribe grounded out moving Juan Rivera to third. Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis was intentionally walked in order to face pitcher Clayton Kershaw with two outs. With runners on first and third, the Dodgers attempted the double-steal, and Rivera was thrown out at home to end the inning. After three complete, the Dodgers led 4-1.
The Padres waited until the top of the sixth inning to get busy again. Jesus Guzman and Nick Hundley walked, and then Will Venable sacrificed to send runners to second and third with one out. Andy Parrino walked to load the bases and then Orlando Hudson singled under the glove of Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon on what easily could have been ruled as Gordon's second error of the game. Jesus Guzman scored on the play.
Josh Lindblom replaced Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, and Buddy Black sent Jeremy Hermida up to bat for Edinson Volquez. Hermida smacked a single into left field, scoring Hundley and Parrino to tie the game at 4-4. Cameron Maybin then struck out, and while Chris Denorfia walked to load the bases, Chase Headley grounded out to end the Padres threat.
The top of the ninth inning pretty much sums up the Padres first ten games this season. With Yonder Alonso smacking a pinch-hit single and Chase Headley drawing a walk, Jesus Guzman tried to bunt the two over a base and wound up having to back out of the way of an inside pitch. The ball hit Guzman's bat by chance in the process, and the Dodgers turned a triple play.
Padres manager Buddy Black went out to argue. The call by the home plate umpire was initially a foul ball, which sent Alonso and Headley back to their bases as the Dodgers threw around the horn. Black was summarily ejected from the game for arguing the call.
The bottom of the ninth sealed whatever fate that bad karma apparently brought the Padres. Brad Brach took the mound and walked Juan Rivera. James Loney then singled, and a sacrifice bunt by Juan Uribe moved Rivera and Loney to second and third. Brach then intentionally walked A.J. Ellis to load the bases and put a possible double play in order.
Even better, Brach got Jerry Hairston, Jr. to pop up, and even though the bases were loaded, there were two outs. Only needing one out and facing Dee Gordon, unfortunately it wasn't to be for the Padres. Gordon's walk-off single sealed a Dodgers sweep of the Padres, who have now lost 6 of 7 to the Dodgers on the young season.
There are times when one looks at this team and reaches the conclusion that they simply aren't playing well. And for the first ten games, they are mostly not playing well. But then there are afternoons like this one, and some of us are about willing to go look for that live rooster and offer a sacrifice.
Good news, Nick Hundley finally got his first hit of the season, it was on a smash to third that went off of the glove of the third baseman, but to rule that an error would have been a mistake, the play wasn't nearly routine. And the bats were better, pounding out 10 hits and 8 of those were against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Hopefully, this continues.
Bad news, Edinson Volquez could have had a more effective outing. In five innings of work he gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and 5 walks, including a home run to Matt Kemp. With only two strikeouts, Volquez will not be among the league leaders in strikeouts for a few days until his next opportunity against the Phillies.
Ugly news, all six of Matt Kemp's home runs have come off of Padres pitching. And even though Padres hitting only struck out five times on Sunday, the team still leads the league in striking out.
Tomorrow, the Padres will play in Colorado against the Rockies. Padres starter Cory Luebke is set to face Rockies starter Jeremy Guthrie, with first pitch scheduled to be at 5:40 PM PDST. With the Fox Sports San Diego thing, you know the deal, Cox Cable or DirecTV, but keep a sharp eye on some of the local sports bars if you are stuck with Time Warner or some other stubborn service provider, because there are specials and even prizes to be had. As always, radio XX 1090 AM will carry the game otherwise.