Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
It's always an adventure when the Los Angeles Dodgers come to town, and Tuesday was no exception as plenty of Dodgers fans showed up hoping to see the visiting team beat the Padres in San Diego. Fortunately for the Padres, starter Edinson Volquez was a little better than Dodgers starter Josh Beckett, and the Padres held off a late rally by the Dodgers to take a 2-1 victory in the first game of the three-game series.
Volquez was magnificent, scattering 6 hits and 2 walks over seven innings without giving up a run. Beckett made it a good pitcher's duel, surrendering two runs (one unearned) on 5 hits and two walks. And as all good rivalries often portend, things got a little bit chippy at one point in the game.
In the top of the second inning, the Dodgers threatened. With one out, Shane Victorino singled and then stole second base. Luis Cruz then singled to left field, but Chris Denorfia gunned a throw to Yasmani Grandal and Victorino was cut down trying to score.
It remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Logan Forsythe opened the frame with a walk and Chase Headley followed with a single, moving Forsythe to third base. Yasmani Grandal then grounded out but Forsythe scored from third base on the play and the Padres took a 1-0 lead.
The Padres added in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Will Venable opened the frame with a walk. Cameron Maybin then struck out and Edonson Volquez failed to sacrifice bunt Venable after Venable stole second base.
Everth Cabrera then got a bunt single down, and Josh Beckett threw the ball away and Venable scored. The Padres held a 2-0 lead over the Dodgers and Volquez continued to pitch well.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, things got a little heated between the two clubs. With reliever Ronald Belisario on the mound for Los Angeles, Cameron Maybin reached when Belisario committed a throwing error and made it to second base.
After Alexi Amarista flied out, pinch-hitting for Volquez, Everth Cabrera drew a one-out walk. Logan Forsythe then hit into a double play, but as Cabrera slid hard into second, the Dodgers Mark Ellis took exception to Cabrera's effort to break up the double play.
Ellis was hot, Shane Victorino came in from his outfield position to bark about it, Cabrera wasn't about to back down and the benches cleared briefly, but cooler heads prevailed as is what usually happens in baseball. Cabrera did what all good hustling base runners do in that situation and slide hard at the player throwing to first base to try and break up the relay effort, and Ellis did what all good second basemen do and get mad at the prospect of getting spiked in the ankle.
After the players filed back to their prospective dugouts, the game went on, and Padres relievers took over. Joe Thatcher came in to face Andre Eithier in the top of the eighth inning and struck him out, and Padres manager Buddy Black then asked Dale Thayer to take care of the rest of the Dodgers hitter that inning.
In the top of the ninth inning, closer Huston Street came in to close out the game and again made things interesting. Luis Cruz opened with a single to right field and A.J. Ellis doubled home Cruz and the Dodgers closed to within 2-1 with no one out.
Dee Gordon pinch-ran for Ellis and Nick Punto pinch-hit for Kenley Jansen and Punto sacrifice bunted Gordon to third base and the Dodgers were set with only one out. Street then walked Mark Ellis to add to the drama, but Andre Ethier struck out and Matt Kemp flied out and the threat was over.
Edinson Volquez evened his record at 11-11 while Josh Beckett fell to 6-14 on the season. Huston Street saved his 23rd game of the year, and the Dodgers fell farther behind in their desperate attempt to catch the St. Louis Cardinals for the final wildcard playoff spot in the National League.
Former Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez returned to Petco Park for the first time since leaving the club in a trade with the Boston Red Sox in December of 2010. The Red Sox then traded the slugger to the Dodgers back in late August. Gonzalez was roundly booed louder and louder with every plate appearance. To clear up any misconceptions over whether the negative reception is warranted, it's perfectly acceptable to boo an opposing player, this is what baseball is all about. Gonzalez is a good guy, but he's simply with the wrong team now, so this is what happens and should happen.
Former Padres pitcher Aaron Harang (9-10, 3.80) will go for the Dodgers, facing Clayton Richard (14-12, 3.81) of the Padres on Wednesday afternoon. Game time is, well, already happening, Fox Sports San Diego and XX 1090 AM have the television and radio coverage, respectively. You're either on it or you're not.