Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Winning Road Trip

Padres win 5-4.

- It's the first time they've won 4 in a row on the road since August 15-19, 2010 (against San Fran and the Cubs).  It's also the first time they've won 4 in a row period since that trip.
- It's the first time they've won consecutive series this season.  It's the first time they've won consecutive series since taking 2 of 3 from the Dodgers and Reds last September (9/21 to 9/26, specifically).
- It's the first time Heath Bell has saved 4 consecutive games in 4 consecutive days since August 10-13, 2010 (Pirates and Giants).
- Mat Latos has put together 3 consecutive quality starts, and is starting to look more and more like his 2010 self.
- Ryan Ludwick has risen from the dead.  Over his last 16 games (not including tonight) he's hit .364/.380/.545.
- Brad Hawpe must have had the tomb next to him.  Since 24 April (again not including tonight) he's hitting .308/.368/.500.

This is the first winning trip of any kind this season (I don't count the first 3 games of the season as a trip, it was only one series).  Maybe things are finally looking up.

No Podcast tonight.  Today's my last day on active duty and I'm going to celebrate a little bit.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Game Reflections - #49 vs Cardinals

In the interests of equal time, last night's game recap is posted over at Stan Musial's Stance (here's the link).  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Game Reflections - #48 vs Cardinals

Before we get to the game, two quick updates.

1.  My friend John did indeed break his arm on Sunday.  His surgery to repair is later this week.  Please keep him in your thoughts and/or prayers.
2.  There will be no Podcast tonight.  Odds are high I will still be at work and unable to get to a phone.  Next Podcast will be Thursday.

Good game last night.  Tough loss for the Padres.  I mentioned over at my other site not to expect San Diego to lay down for St Louis in this series.  The team meeting after Sunday's game suggested a refocusing of effort by the Padres last night.  The surprise demotion of Will Venable to AAA Tucson and call up of Blake Tekotte from AA San Antonio I'm sure shook up the locker room as well.  To my eye they looked a little less flat than they did during the Seattle series.

- Pujols hammered the ball in his first at bat.  Unfortunately he hit it to the deepest part of Petco on a cool night, and the ball died on the warning track.  AP yelled at the ball as he was headed up the line, something I don't remember seeing him do before.  I guess we know now the homerless drought was at least present in his conscious mind.  His collision with John Jay at first after Cameron Maybin caught the ball elicited laughter from the crowd, as you might expect.

- Rasmus' catch robbing Ludwick of the HR was very cool to see in person.  He timed his jump perfectly.  Ludwick also has the best 'you gotta be sh**ing me' face in the game today.

- Initially I thought Hawpe was an idiot for not taking third on Headley's ground out to second in the second, but on the replay it was not clear if Schumaker could catch that ball in the air or not.  Hawpe did the right thing by freezing.  If it got past the Cardinal second baseman Hawpe easily makes third anyway.

- The Cardinals made a late pregame change, switching Berkman to left and John Jay to right.  It worked out in the fifth inning for the Cardinals, as Jay ran down Orlando Hudson's drive in to the gap for an out.  It worked out for the Padres in the sixth, as Berkman misjudged Chris Denorfia's line shot into a double.  Although in fairness to Berkman, judging a ball hit that hard, headed right at you in the OF, is the toughest play in baseball IMO.

- Maybin's bunt in the seventh was exquisite.

- After Mike Adams went 3-0 on Albert Pujols in the eighth I thought we were looking at one of those unintentional/intentional walks.  Then Pujols swung at a 3-0 pitch (which was a breaking ball, but right down the middle) and missed it.  The 3-2 pitch was borderline, but home plate umpire Jim Joyce had been calling that pitch a strike consistently the entire game.  Give Joyce credit for letting Pujols vent and not reacting.  I don't know what LaRussa said to get run, but it must have been a doozy.

- The difference between the 19-29 Padres and 29-20 Cardinals was evident in the bottom of the seventh and top of the ninth.  The bottom of the seventh saw the Padres put runners on first and third with 0 out.  They got one run on Jorge Cantu's sac fly, but that was it.  The Key AB was Hudson's weak ground ball to Pujols that caught Headley off third.  Having no real bench presence behind Cantu did not help either.

In the ninth, Schumaker took a chance trying to stretch his hit into a double and beat it.  Replays showed he was indeed safe by an eyelash.  Then Jose Oquendo aggressively sent Schumaker to the plate on Descalso's single just past Hudson.  It reinforced something I noticed during the Seattle series, too:  opposing teams are very willing to test the Padre outfielders' arms.  Seattle took several extra bases on soft singles.  The Cardinals did the same last night when it counted.

That and STL got clutch hitting when they needed it, something San Diego has struggled to do at home all season.

Aaron Harang has been solid all season at home for the Padres.  He matches up Kyle McClellan, who has pitched better as a first-year starter than anyone could have reasonably expected going into the season.  San Diego has its work cut out for it again tonight, as it tries to snap this 4-game losing streak.

And tries to score more than 2 runs for the first time in a week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Game Reflections - SDABL Playoffs

This post is not about the Padres, because that post would have looked a lot like what I've written the past 2 days.  Padres score 1 run, strike out a lot, lose to Seattle.  Instead, this post is about adult baseball in San Diego.

I still try to play baseball on Sundays.  Actually I am on a field somewhere in San Diego every Sunday; the try describes my level of play.  If the Majors are the pinnacle of baseball in this country, the San Diego Adult Baseball League 38+A division is near the bottom of the mountain.  No one in this league plays because they still harbor major league aspirations, they play because they love it.

The team I play on has 18 guys who share that love.  We range in age from 40 to 67 years old, and we're still pretty good - good enough to make the playoffs as one of the 4 best teams in our league each season.  This season, well, it was different.  We lost our first 2 games, then reeled off seven straight.  We finished second by a 1/2 game (same number of losses as the #1 team, just we played one fewer game; we chose not to play on Mother's Day).  You never know what might happen, but this team had the best chance of any I've been on to win the playoff tourney.

The playoffs started today, and we played Berry's Athletic Supply's team.  If you know anything about Berry's they always put good teams on the field.  They sponsor teams in every division of the SDABL, and typically win.  The Berry's team in our bracket is no different.  We only lost 2 games this season, and squeaked by in a couple of others, but Berry's was the only team that really handled us.  We had an ace in the hole, though - our best pitcher missed the first game, but would be on the field today.  I liked our chances.

Berry's jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, when with runners on first and second and two out, Juan Eichelberger (yes THAT Juan Eichelberger) singled to left, scoring the runner from second.  I, who was playing left at the time, threw to the plate but the throw was going to be late.  Instead it was cut off and we cut down the other runner between second and third.  Berry's scratched out another run in the fourth to make it 2-0.

In the meantime we had trouble solving Berry's starting pitcher, but our ace kept their lineup in check and us in it.  In the bottom half of the fifth we put two runners on for the first time all game, and when they moved up on a wild pitch to second and third we had our first real opportunity, albeit with two out.  Our shortstop engaged their pitcher in an epic battle, eventually singling to center on a full count, scoring both and tying the game at two.

Like I said, it looked to be our day.

In the top of the sixth Berry's eventually put two on (again at first and second) with two out, and Eichelberger stepped up again.  This time he took an 0-2 pitch and lined it to right for a hit.  I, who was playing RF this time (funny how I was involved in both of his RBI hits), played it on a hop, then threw a strike to the cut-off man, who threw a strike to the plate, which beat the runner by 6 feet.

Umpire called him safe.  Said later he got his toe in before the tag was applied.

But that's not the worst of it.  On the next pitch our pitcher broke his arm.  Or that's what we think happened.  I heard a loud pop from right field, watched the ball sail to the backstop, the runner on third score, the second base umpire call time, and our pitcher walk off the mound.  All in the time it took you to read that sentence.

It may turn out he tore the tendon that holds his tricep to his radius, or something like that.  I don't know; I probably won't for about 2 weeks.  We called the paramedics, and after they stabilized him he left the field under his own power.  Those of us there (about 40 or so including some family) did the only thing we could:  we gave him a standing ovation.  The EMTs put him in their ambulance and headed to the hospital.  I had heard about players being hurt while throwing but had never seen it in person before today.

No one would admit it, but losing him deflated us.  Berry's scored 7 in the seventh and 4 in the eighth to put the game out of reach.  What had started out as a crisp, tense, well-played game ended up a 15-3 rout.  Those who care will see that on the website and perhaps in tomorrow's paper and think we got blown out from the get-go.  There is texture to this story and I wanted to write about that.

I don't care that we lost.  My heart goes out to John.  This is not like a sprain or an ache, this is serious.  I love playing baseball and it would tear me up to learn I could no longer do it.  I sincerely hope that is not in John's future, and that we see him on a baseball diamond very soon.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Game Reflections - #46 vs Mariners

First, a correction:  Yesterday I said Ryan Ludwick's ninth inning RBI snapped the Padres' 0-for-19 slump with RISP.  That's not true; it was actually 0-for-21.  I stand corrected.

On to tonight's game.

Hmmm looking a little gloomy.  Foreshadowing?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Game Reflections - #45 vs Mariners

Ah the opening game of the annual series against our 'Ancient Rival'.  This one had an interesting ending.  Some notes, in no particular ord.

- I have no idea how Cameron Maybin missed Kennedy's sinking line drive in the second inning.  @leftcoastbias and I discussed it for a bit, and came to the conclusion he lost it in the lights.  That really is the only explanation that makes sense.  Maybin tracked that ball all the way past his glove, as it were.

Speaking from some personal experience, when a ball merges into the lights you have two choices.  Try to get down so you can still see it, or stick your glove out and hope.  Maybin tried both and the ball still eluded him.  Tough break.

- The bottom of Seattle's lineup killed Latos.  Hitters 1-5:  2-for-18, 2 singles, 2 walks.  Hitters 6-9:  6-for-15, 2 2B, 3B, HR, Sac Fly.  These 4 hitters drove in all 4 runs.  And it's not like Seattle stacked Murderer's Row down there; coming into the game Miguel Olivo, Carlos Peguero, Brendan Ryan, and Eric Bedard came in with OPS+ of 59, 50, 54, and 0 respectively.  Latos just could not consistently get them out.

- Olivo sure liked what he saw tonight, with a ground rule double and HR to left-center off Latos.  On the double, it looked like Ludwick and Maybin slowed down when he saw each other coming.  I don't know if Ludwick had a play, or if Maybin would have had a play had he kept running all out; I think Maybin had the better shot although he came a much longer way.  Hard to say from way behind home plate.

- The Mariners got two ridiculous jumps off Latos, both by Kennedy.  He had a 2 or three step head-start before the pitch left Mat's hand.  On one play he stole second, on the other he scored easily in front of Peguero's triple.  I don't remember base stealers getting that good a read on Latos last season.

- Latos worked noticeably more quickly in the sixth.  He gave up 2 XBH in the frame, including Olivo's HR.  I wonder why he sped things up.

Ludwick's single in the ninth broke an the team's 0-for-19 21 string with RISP. - 

- I have no idea what Ludwick was thinking on Cantu's fly ball in the seventh.  Why round second on that play?  If it's a HR you've got all day to run the bases. If it's a double you've got time to get to third.  If it's caught you need to get back.  Ludwick made a bad baserunning play there.

- The scoreboard said Denorfia leads the Padres in SLG.  He had 78 AB coming into the game.  Seemed an odd stat to quote for Denorfia.  Ludwick has 178 AB and 8 HR; he's the power leader on the club.

- 3 more double plays tonight, all of which killed potential rallies.

- Bedard struck out 9 tonight.  It's the second time he's done that this season. He had not done it since 2007 before 8 May against the White Sox.

- Here's what happened on the Ludwick ball in the ninth.  Peguero didn't catch it, and it was ultimately ruled a single.  Bartlett, thinking it had been caught, started back to first.  He and Ludwick bumped.  In the umpires eyes, that meant Ludwick had passed Bartlett.  So they called Ludwick out.  Bartlett was allowed to go back to second because after Ludwick was ruled out, the force at second was off, and when Kennedy received Franklin 'Death to Flying Things' Gutierrez's throw he didn't tag Bartlett.

Rule 7.08(h) applies.

Initially they ruled that Ludwick was safe and Bartlett out on the force.

All in all a tough game.  Seattle completely out-played them on this night.  Tomorrow the Padres get to face phenom Michael Pineda  I'm looking forward to seeing the kid pitch, although not so much to him shutting down the Padre offense.  

One final thing on the Maybin comment from yesterday.  A reliable source tells me the Brewers Media Relations person asked the official scorer to take another look at Maybin's single in the seventh inning Thursday.  Seems there was a similar play in Wednesday's game on a ball hit by a Brewer that was ruled an error, and the media guy was wondering about the perceived inconsistency.  FWIW.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Game Reflections - #44 vs Brewers

Hmmm.  5 Infielders.  Will it work?
 Good Grief.  Has it really been 15 games since I last saw one live?  Wow.  Off we go.

Off to a rough start as Aaron Harang walked Corey Hart and allowed a single to Ryan Braun.  After Braun stole second, it looked like the Padres would be down early again.  But Harang wriggled out of it, getting Prince Fielder to pop to short and Casey McGehee hit back to the box.

We missed part of the first inning while eating at the Hall of Fame Grill inside the Western Metal building.  The Nachos were good.  Unfortunately for me, something in the chicken set off a nasty case of heartburn which made for a rather uncomfortable next 6 innings.  It was not food poisoning; I'm pretty sure it was an allergic reaction.  Sucked to be me.

The Brewers would only get one more runner to third, Fielder in the fourth inning, as Harang settled down and worked 8 scoreless innings.

On the other side of the ledger Chris Narveson was as good as Harang.  Narveson worked 7 1/3 innings, and the Padres only got 2 runners to third off him (Denorfia in the third, Maybin in the seventh).

Without a lot of offense, this game was quick. 1:45 in we were singing 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game".  Milwaukee took Narveson out in favor of Kameron Loe, who worked around McGehee's error.

When I got home I found two tweets from Cameron Maybin expressing some frustration with the official scorer.  During the seventh inning, he hit a hard ground ball that McGehee bobbled, and beat McGehee's throw to first.  It was ruled an infield single.  After the game the official scorer reviewed the play and changed it to E-5.  The tweets have since been deleted.

I'm not saying Maybin did anything wrong.  It was an emotional moment and I appreciated the candor.  I will say that when I saw the play live I thought it was E-5.  Maybin is a very fast man, but if McGehee fields that ball cleanly Maybin is out by a step. In my opinion the official scorer got it right after his review.  Also, he would not have reviewed the play unless someone asked him to.

Ludwick led off the ninth with a soft single, but the game turned on Black's decision to pinch run for him.  I liked the aggressiveness there, playing to win at home.  Because of that, Brewer pitcher Marco Estrada spent a lot of time trying to keep Eric Patterson close at first.  Pitchout, ball high, then another ball as Patterson stole second.  With a 3-0 count on Hawpe the Brewers walked him intentionally.

The rest was predictable.  Maybin laid down a pretty bunt to move the runners over with 1 out.  Headley was intentionally walked to load the bases.  Kotsay came in from left to play the infield, but it didn't matter as Orlando Hudson hit the first pitch he saw to right, driving Hart back and plenty deep enough to score Patterson from third.

A nice win and a series split with Milwaukee.  The Padres are now 1-0-2 in their last 3 series, their best stretch of the season, after splitting 2 game sets with Arizona and the Brewers.  They open the Inter-league portion of the scheduel tomorrow when Seattle comes to town.

We did a Podcast tonight.  It's short - 19 min long - but it can be found here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Winning Streak

Two in a row is a trend.  Three straight is a winning streak.  The Padres finally have a 2011 winning streak.

After losing two straight in Milwaukee (and getting slapped around a bit early in the 8-6 loss last Tuesday) the Padres have been doing the slapping.  Yes they lost the first game in Colorado 12-7, but over their last 5 games those 7 runs are the fewest they've scored.  Here's today's obscure stat:  this streak matches the franchise record for consecutive games in which San Diego has scored 7 or more runs.  The last time they did it was April 1996.  The first time they did it was April 1979.

Even more encouraging than the offense finally rising from the dead is the last starts from Mat Latos and Clayton Richard.  For the first time this season both looked like the pitchers they were last year.  When the Padres pitch to their ability, and hit a little bit, they are a formidable opponent.  Just take a look at last year.

All of that is good news.  The icing on this cake becomes the Padres leaving the NL West basement for the first time since April 17.  Thank you Armando Galarraga.

That this offensive surge started on the road has reignited complaints about Petco Park and this team's offensive production at home.  The standard slash lines bear out a significant split:  .206/.288/.317 at Petco, .265/.331/.379 on the road.  However take a look at these numbers:

  • Petco Park:  29 2B, 5 3B, 13 HR to date by the Padres
  • Road:           29 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR through last night's game.
That's a wash people.  The Padres problems winning at home in 2011 is not due to an inability to drive the ball downtown.  The issue is their OBP at home is 50 points lower than on the road.  They have 40 fewer HITS at home than on the road.  Sorry, but that's not solely because our ballpark knocks down balls hit in the air.

I am doing a much more detailed look at the Padres offense in Petco.  I hope to have that completed just after Memorial Day (if not sooner).

Padres go for the sweep tonight, and their first consecutive series wins of the season.  I also have a Podcast tonight.  Hope to hear from you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hundley to DL, Phillips Called Up

Padres announced today they have put Nick Hundley on the 15-day DL retroactive to yesterday (5 May).  The team called up Kyle Phillips from their AA affiliate in San Antonio.

Hundley suffered a right oblique strain.  He started Wednesday's 7-4 loss to the Pirates but came out of the game after a seventh-inning at bat where he struck out.  It is unclear from the Padres Press Release if he initially tweaked his oblique earlier in the game or did it during this at-bat, where he swung the bat twice (first fouling off a pitch, then swinging and missing).  It could partially explain the bad throw he made in the third inning when he attempted to force Andrew McCutchen at second following Xavier Paul's swinging bunt.

Hundley had been the Padres best hitter in the early going, but since his mini four-game hitting streak was snapped on 21 April he's been in a 5-for-36 funk, with 2 doubles and 0 HR.

Phillips was acquired from Toronto in a 25 June 2010 trade for a player to be named later (and I was unable to find out who it was after searching through the mlb.com archive).  He last played in the majors in 2009 with Toronto.

The Padres also shifted Jerrett Hoffpauir from the 15-day to the 60-day DL with a strained right quadriceps.

Information in this post was provided by the Padres Media Relations staff at 1604

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hudson to DL, Forsythe Recalled

Hudson exits Tuesday's game (AP/Larry Ignelzi)
Orlando Hudson pulled up lame last night rounding second base in the first inning.  We all held our breath, hoping he'd only be out a few days.

Not so much. The Padres announced this afternoon they were placing Hudson on the 15-day DL due to the strained right hamstring, and recalling Logan Forsythe from AAA-Tucson.

I was wondering what the long-term solution would be if Hudson went down, because Eric Patterson is an outfielder by trade.  Now we know.  Losing Hudson puts a crimp in the Padre running game (he led the team with 10 steals), as well as the infield defense.  Although I'm sure Jason Bartlett is OK with no butt-slapping for a few weeks around the bag at second.

When Forsythe enters a game for the first time it will be his ML debut.  He was the 46th pick in the 2008 Amateur Draft (supplemental round).  This season in Tucson he was 25-for-86 with 4 HR, 15 RBI, and 2 steals.

Welcome to the club, Logan Forsythe.

The Padres also announced transferring Joe Thatcher from the 15 to 60 day DL following exploratory surgery on his left shoulder.

Information in this post was taken from the Padres Media Announcement released at 1:41 today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Game Reflections - #29 vs Pirates

Just returned from tonight's Padres/Pirates tilt at Petco.  Some thoughts on the 4-3 Padres loss:

- Great idea by San Diego to honor the military by wearing the camouflage uniforms.  The team usually invites all active duty and veterans in the crowd to stand and be recognized prior to the start of every game, and did so again tonight; but the cheers from the 20,456 in attendance were a little louder than normal.  The MLB 9-11 logo was also displayed on monitors throughout the ballpark during the introductions.

- Tonight's National Anthem was sung a capella and frankly, it was appropriate to do it that way.  We should not celebrate that a man, even an enemy, is dead; we should remember those no longer with us because of the evil that man brought into the world.

- Whatever Aaron Harang brought with him to the mound to start the game, he should forget it.  Every ball hit in play by Pittsburgh in the top of the first was a bullet.  The Garrett Jones HR was a no-doubter into the RF corner, and Chris Snyder's was hammered out to left.  After a half-inning to regroup, he allowed a measly infield single in his remaining 4 innings.

- Brad Hawpe made a nice play on a ground ball up the line off Jones' bat.  It was eerily similar to the ball Martin Prado hit on Wednesday that Hawpe missed.  Nice to see him make that play.

- Jorge Cantu's HR in the sixth was also smashed.  Amazing how when the weather heats up the ball carries better at Petco, no?  His 2-run shot cut the lead in half.

- Ryan Ludwick had 2 hits, and both those balls were scorched.  His second hit drove in San Diego's third run.

- A little bit of comedy in the top of the eighth inning when both Hundley and Cantu missed foul balls off the bat of Jones (that man again).  Comedy because Hundley disappeared into the Pirates dugout, and Cantu flopped over into the camera well.  Luckily no one was hurt, and in fairness given where they came down both were tough plays.

- San Diego was mesmerized by an opposing pitcher in their own ball park again.  Other than the HR to Cantu, Pittsburgh starter James McDonald scattered 4 hits and struck out 5 in his 6 innings of work.

- The top of the ninth took for-EVER.  Frieri walked the first 3 hitters he faced, and Gregerson (who relieved him) walked the first guy HE faced, but thanks to Lyle Overbay being caught stealing after his leadoff walk the Padres were able to wriggle off the hook without allowing a run.

- Some smart aleck decided to start the "whoOP!  WHooo" chant when Pittsburgh reliever Chris Resop was warming up, and continued it once Resop entered the game.  Eventually most of the ballpark joined in.  It didn't hurt the chant that the Padres scored their third run with Resop in the game.

- Pittsburgh has the best bullpen ERA in the NL coming into tonight's game.  I had not realized their bullpen had been pitching that well so far in 2011.

- Thanks to consecutive hits by Nick Hundley and Chase Headley, the Padres got runners to the corners with two out in the bottom of the ninth.  But Will Venable hit the first pitch he saw to short, and that ended the game.

We've been beaten down a bit both by the Padres slow start and their struggles on offense.  I think I re-emphasize the obvious when I say San Diego badly needed last Thursday's day off.  Since their attempted ninth-inning comeback on Friday in Los Angeles that fell short, the Padres have started hitting the ball much better.  Tonight every starting position player except Cameron Maybin had a hit.  That's encouraging.  Maybe the days of feeble offense and lots of shutouts are behind us for a while.

One can only hope.