Don Bauder 9:45 p.m., March 11
Padres pull out last home game of season against Arizona
The Diamondbacks fell to the Padres in extra innings in the last game of 2013 at Petco Park
The Padres and Diamondbacks seemed to enjoy playing tied in this four-game series at Petco Park, and for the second time a game went to extra innings. On Tuesday, Arizona prevailed but on Thursday the Friars beat the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the eleventh inning, 3-2, in the final home game of the season for San Diego.
The retiring Mark Kotsay was honored before the game in what would be his last game played at Petco Park. A custom surfboard was presented to him by the Padres by former teammates from years past, and rather than the entire team taking the field to begin the game, Kotsay went out alone into left field and was greeted with a standing ovation by fans.
“Somewhat embarrassing and I felt naked,” Kotsay said after the game. “This is a team sport – we do things together and they left me alone. So we’ll have a talk about that on the bus ride to the airport.”
The game itself had the Padres scoring two runs in the third inning on a Chris Denorfia triple with two outs, followed by a single by Jedd Gyorko to drive in Denorfia and then a double by Chase Headley to plate Gyorko. In the top of the fourth, the Diamondbacks drew even after Paul Goldschmidt singled and Geraldo Parra homered off of Padres starter Robbie Erlin, and the teams remained tied at two runs each for a long time.
Padres pitching then retired 24 straight batters. Erlin went seven innings, Luke Gregerson and then Huston Street one inning each, and Nick Vincent pitched the last two.
Other than Parra’s home run, Erlin was stellar, giving up only the two runs on three hits and a walk. “I felt good out there,” Erlin said, postgame. “I just felt like the curve ball was working today, so we just went with that. Really, when it came down to it, it was just about throwing strikes.”
Kotsay had a chance to play hero on the day he was honored. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Gyorko opened with a walk and Headley was hit by a pitch, and with one out, Mark came to the plate.
Sensing that it would be Kotsay’s last at-bat, Mark received an enthusiastic standing ovation as he walked to the plate, and the crowd anticipated something special. Right out of Ernest Thayer’s Casey at the Bat, Kotsay struck out swinging on three pitches.
“Even my last at-bat at Petco, I went down swinging,” Kotsay said when asked what he would take away from Thursday’s game. “I’ve always been told that you can’t get off of the Island unless you swing, so I swung as hard as I could but unfortunately I couldn’t make contact.”
Finally, in the bottom of the eleventh inning, the Padres broke through. Tommy Medica opened the frame with a single, and rather than sacrifice bunt Medica to second base to put him in scoring position, manager Buddy Black opted to send Jesus Guzman to the plate, which was a pivotal decision in the game.
“Well, we talked about that, maybe for about a half a second,” Buddy chided. “But where we were in the lineup, [Guzman] is a very solid pinch hitter, that’s his knack.”
Guzman hit a ground rule double to put runners on second and third with no one out, and after Arizona intentionally walked Nick Hundley to fill the bases, Alexi Amarista came up and the Diamondbacks infield was drawn in. Amarista hit a ball up the middle into center field and the Padres walked off in the final game at Petco Park in 2013 victorious.
The Padres flew into San Francisco on Thursday evening for the last series of the season against the Giants. Friday, the Padres will offer Burch Smith (1-2, 5.87) against Ryan Vogelsong (3-6, 5.90) for the Giants. First pitch is at 7:15 PM PDST and the usual suspects, radio 1090 AM and Fox Sports San Diego on television will bring all of the action. This will wind up being the battle for third place in the National League Western Division. A dubious honor, but better than a battle to stay out of the cellar.