Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Padres and Robinson pound on Diamondbacks
Behind the pitching of Ian Kennedy, a prolific offensive display by San Diego throttles the Snakes
Odds are good that the average Padres fan had never heard of Chris Robinson before he was brought up as a third catcher in September when the Padres expanded their roster from 25 to up to 40 players. On Wednesday, Robinson contributed with his first major league hit, a home run to left field, and the Padres went on to beat the Diamondbacks 12-2 at Petco Park.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Padres scored a run when Chase Headley doubled home Chris Denorfia, and then the Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the third inning when starting pitcher Randall Delgado singled home Geraldo Parra.
In the top of the fourth, the Diamondbacks took a 2-1 lead on a balk by Ian Kennedy. The Padres came back to get a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the frame on a Tommy Medica solo home run, Medica’s third since being called up in September, but that was where the game stopped being at all close.
In the bottom of the fifth inning with two outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd, Chris Denorfia drove in both runners, and then Jedd Gyorko homered to left field and the Padres went up 6-2. It was Gyorko’s 21st home run of the season.
“[Delgado] had a good change-up tonight,” Gyorko said. “He got me out a couple of times, caught me on my front foot in earlier at-bats. He had a situation where he went fastball up, I thought he might go back to [the change-up] and I just kind of swung on it.”
The Padres weren’t nearly finished. Rene Rivera doubled in a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, and Chase Headley singled in another run in the bottom of the seventh and the Padres led 8-2. But wait, there’s more.
With two runners on and no one out, Chris Robinson was called on to pinch hit for reliever Dale Thayer. Robinson took the third pitch he saw off of reliever Eury De La Rosa and deposited over the left field wall for his first major league hit, a 3-run home run. Chase Headley doubled in Denorfia later in the inning to cap the scoring.
Robinson was the story, though, and all of his teammates gave him accolades both in the dugout and in the clubhouse after the game. Robinson’s tale is the stuff to love about the game of professional baseball.
Chris Robinson was born in Canada and played baseball in prep school, but preferred to attend some college first rather than be drafted in the 30th round by the New York Mets. After two years attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and playing for the Fighting Illini, the Detroit Tigers drafted him in the third round in 2005.
From there, he bounced around the minor leagues for three different organizations before the Padres bought him from the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations. Chris was brought up as an emergency back-up in August when regular catcher Nick Hundley went on paternity leave, but a few days later he was sent back down to AAA Tucson.
After the Padres added him as a third catcher in September, Chris had five unsuccessful pinch-hitting appearances until Tuesday night. After his home run, he was left in to play defensively in the big leagues in the top of the ninth inning and fittingly recorded the last out on a pop-up.
“Actually, it’s funny, I had a commune with our bench coach Ricky Renteria, I was just supposed to step in the box. Him and I have a little history when it comes to bunting - with the [World Baseball Classic] - and I just kind of caught his eye and he kind of jokingly said, ‘Swing it away,’ and I just kind of stepped out and I laughed and I just kind of felt that calming influence and I saw the ball pretty well and I got a hit and got some good wood on it. Pretty cool,” Robinson said.
It’s notable that in Chris Robinson’s eight year minor league career, power was not among his statistical assets. In 2,365 plate appearances, Chris had only 12 home runs. But so far in the majors, six plate appearances have produced a dinger. Not bad, Chris Robinson, not bad at all.
Honorable mention, which otherwise would have been the lead in any good column, was the good effort by Ian Kennedy, who went 7 full innings giving up only 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk while striking out 7 Diamondbacks, Kennedy’s former teammates.
“Rhythm was good, arm speed was good, I felt pretty good tonight,” Kennedy said. “The first inning kind of set the tone with my command, the fastball was down, I think when you throw a fastball down in the zone it gives you a little liberty.”
And Kennedy certainly had good command, and the Diamondbacks never had a chance. But even Kennedy humbled his own performance with the knock by Robinson.
“Special thing for me tonight was watching Chris, that was fun,” said Kennedy. “I was in the weight room [after leaving the game in the seventh inning] and as soon as he hit it I ran down into the dugout and it was so exciting, he worked so hard to get here.”
Indeed, Ian. No idea what the future holds for the 29-year old Robinson, but here’s to hoping it continues to be something special, because it’s a great story to write, as many times as a writer can write it.
Will Venable was back in the lineup on Tuesday, his abdominal issues notwithstanding. Buddy indicated that Will wanted to be out there, and felt good enough to contribute. Kyle Blanks started in left field, but was pulled in the top of the seventh inning. Black said that it was a combination of nagging injuries and that Reymond Fuentes was a better defender that prompted the straight switch. Ronny Cedeno was still out of the lineup after getting hit in the head a couple of days ago, but Buddy was confident that Cedeno would be back in the lineup soon, perhaps in San Francisco over the weekend.
Thursday, the series wraps up between the Padres and Diamondbacks, as does the last home stand of the 2013 season. Arizona will offer up Trevor Cahill (8-10, 4.02) to face Robbie Elrin (3-3, 4.34) of the Padres. First pitch is scheduled for 3:40 PM PDST and will be carried on radio 1090 AM (Andy Masur and Jerry Coleman will have the call) and Fox Sports San Diego will provide visuals. There will be a t-shirt giveaway for the first 25,000 through the turnstiles. Last chance to see the 2013 Padres this season, so beg -off of work early and come on out to see these guys for the ultimate home game this year.