I am on Cloud 9 at the moment, and although it took 13 innings to finish this game, it was well worth it. Now I am writing into the wee hours of the night, but I am happy. The Padres break open the first of the series against the Giants with a hard fought extra inning win. I am certain that Padres wanted it more tonight. From starting pitcher Edinson Volquez, to Tim Stauffer, to Joe Thatcher, to Luke Gregerson, to Dale Thayer, to Nick Vincent, to Huston Street, it was a great team effort. The Padres pitchers pitched effectively and as a unit, holding the Giants to 10 hits, 1 walk, and 3 earned runs over 13. That equates to a 2.08 ERA and a 0.846 WHIP.
As for the hitters, the Padres ended up with 18 hits, and 6 walks. Overall, the Padres nearly out hit the Giants 2 – 1, with that last extra run scoring hit beyond our grasp for so many innings. Although the Padres hitters did not have favorable numbers in terms of hitting with RISP (4-22 vs 2-8) which is correlated to LOB (17 vs 6), the Padres hitters were effective at creating opportunities and getting good looks. It was only a matter of time before the hitters broke through. The Padres now leapfrog the Giants in the NL West, and hope to ride this hot streak for as long as possible.
Ultimately, if there is one Padres team member that I have to call out in front of the collective whole tonight, it would have to be Buddy Black. There’s no doubt that the Padres are hot right now – but baseball is funny like that, and it works in mysterious ways. Early in the season, the Padres were cold, and it was Buddy Black that kept the ship together, and kept the team believing in itself. Belief is 2/3 the battle. And tonight, it was the matchup of managers that tilted the balance in my eyes. Two moves late in the game illustrated to me, the chess master that Buddy is. A) Saving the closer. While Bruce Bochy elected to use Sergio Romo in the 9th, Buddy waited on Huston Street until the appropriate moment. Padres hitters have made it a point to eviscerate bullpen pitchers all season long. It is only a matter of time before the Padres hitters break through the bullpen. B) Executing small ball when it counts. Sabermetricians abhor the sacrifice as much as NL abhors the DH. Outs are very precious when it comes to baseball number crunchers. However, I believe the exception to this generalized rule is extra innings. Every runner advanced places that much additional pressure on the opposing pitcher. And in extra innings, the pitcher on the mound can be a bullpen guy that may not be prepared to pitch that night. A pitcher that is asked to rise to the occasion as opposed to one that is setting the occasion. In the 13th, the Padres hitters knew what to do, they were well coached. Get on base, apply pressure on the pitcher. String along hits and create a base runner situation that is a favorable scoring opportunity. And when it came time to execute a sacrifice, Buddy Black called in a pitcher, Andrew Cashner. A pitcher that routinely executes and practices the sacrifice, and a pitcher where the scouting report is light. And the rest is as they say history. Congratulations to Buddy Black and his 500th win. Go Padres!!