Jeff Smith noon, March 8
The Padres combined the long ball with solid pitching on Sunday for some excellent results, and more importantly, they took the three-game series from the Mets in convincing fashion. With home runs from Chase Headley, Yonder Alonso, and Carlos Quentin, starting pitcher Jason Marquis went into the seventh inning and relievers Dale Thayer, Luke Gregerson, and Huston Street had low pitch counts in holding the Mets off as the Padres won 7-3.
After burning through relief pitching on Saturday, combined with some fatigue encountered during the tail-end of the last road trip, it was obvious that the relief needed some relief in the bullpen, and Marquis provided some, thanks to the Padres hitters staking him to an early lead.
In fact, the Padres started pestering Mets rookie pitcher Matt Harvey in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Everth Cabrera doubled, and Chase Headley hit a homerun – his fifteenth of the season - to right field, just over the scoreboard to plant the Padres with a 2-0 lead over the Mets after an inning.
While Marquis retired the Mets in order for the next two innings, the Padres added more in the bottom of the third. With two outs, Chase Headley drew a walk and took second base on a passed ball. Carlos Quentin then doubled to right field, scoring Headley.
Yonder Alonso came up and hit a huge shot to center field, his sixth of the season. After three innings, the Padres offense staked Jason Marquis to a comfortable lead of 5-0.
Marquis continued to dominate the Mets batting order until the top of the sixth inning. Mike Baxter walked, and one out later Ronny Cedeno placed the ball into the left field seats, and the Mets cut the lead down to 5-2.
The Mets added on in the top of the seventh. Ike Davis opened the frame with a double to right field, and after retiring Daniel Murphy on a fly ball, allowing Davis to tag and get to third base, Marquis gave way to reliever Dale Thayer.
Jason Bay lifted a fly ball to center field, and Davis tagged and scored. After six-and-a-half innings, the Mets trailed the Padres 5-3.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Padres got the run back. With reliever Ramon Ramirez on the hill for the Mets and two outs, Carlos Quentin homered to left and the Padres increased their lead to 6-3 going into the eighth.
Luke Gregerson took over for Thayer and held the Mets to a two-out double and nothing more. In the bottom of the frame, the Padres added an insurance run, when with two outs, John Baker singled and Mark Kotsay belted a line-drive double to plate Baker, and the Padres took a 7-3 lead into the top of the ninth inning.
Closer Huston Street came in, a non-save situation, and retired the side in order. Jason Marquis got the win and improved to 7-10, while Matt Harvey took the loss and fell to 1-2 on the season.
But perhaps the most important aspect of Sunday’s game was the combination of Marquis pitching into the seventh inning, and Thayer throwing only six pitches. Gregerson only threw 14 and Street 15, preserving a bullpen that has been taxed as of late.
Game ball goes to the pitchers on Sunday, with a mighty large honorable mention to the dongers for the Padres, because it’s generally much easier to pitch when leading than to pitch when trailing.
And, of course, kudos to Mets general manager and former Padres general manager Sandy Alderson, who when asked in a radio interview a few years back on the Darren Smith Show (XX 1090 AM, 2-6 PM) what the Padres strategy should be, replied, “A walk and a dong.” Apparently, the Padres took your advice on Sunday, Mr. Alderson. Well done, well done indeed.
The Padres announced on Sunday that Cory Burns was optioned back to AAA Tucson, and Miles Mikolas was called up in his place. Burns had pitched an inning and two-thirds in his Major League Baseball debut, getting into a bit of trouble, but pitching his way out of it. Mikolas is up for the third time, having gone 1-1 with a 3.86 earned run average. The move can be interpreted as necessary due to the bullpen needing a fresh arm. Burns had thrown over 30 pitches, while Mikolas had thrown around ten on the same day. Just guessing that Burns will be back up eventually, as the Padres continue to rotate fresh arms into the bullpen in order to ensure adequate relief pitching as needed.
The Padres now open up a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs to close out the home stand. Notably, it marks the return of Anthony Rizzo, who was traded to the Cubs in the off-season for pitcher Andrew Cashner, who is on the disabled list. Rizzo came to the Padres as part of the deal for Adrian Gonzalez who went to the Boston Red Sox. It’s a wonderful soap opera. Rizzo is hitting much better with the Cubs than he did with the Padres, but that’s in the Central Division of the National League which features many stadiums where the dimensions are favorable for Rizzo’s long powerful swing; unlike in the National League West, where most ballparks are long and not conducive for a swing like Rizzo’s. Smart fans won’t bite on the hype, Rizzo should be stellar with the Cubs and might have floundered with the Padres. And Cashner is no slouch, a fastball that clears 100 MPH isn’t common these days. Stay tuned.
So, Monday’s game will feature Travis Wood (4-7, 4.90) for the Cubs, while the Padres will insert Eric Stults (1-2, 3.11) into the rotation to get the start. Game time is at 7:05 PM PDST. Radio on XX 1090 AM, televised on Fox Sports San Diego, or come to Petco Park if you still believe that Time Warner or AT&T U-verse cares about your needs as a Padres fan, because they are just daring you to do so. And if you do believe that they do have your best interests at heart, then beware of sketchy real estate deals for land surveyed on the beaches of Baja California. Watch the Olympics reruns instead. Or better, just come to Petco Park, the dog days of August are best taken in while sitting in right field. Weekday seats are very affordable; bring your sunscreen or tanning oil.