Long relief men are certainly not the most talked about members of a team’s pitching staff. Moreover, I am sure that most of them are overlooked by a majority of their franchise’s fanbase.
Lack of recognition aside, these unsung heroes serve an important purpose for any team in need of innings to be gobbled up if their starter is shelled or injured. Earlier this evening the Padres needed their long relief men to “nut up” and fill in for Clayton Richard after he left the game after only two pitches.
It honestly looked like Stauffer would suffer the same fate as Richard though, especially after he put the first two guys on base and was blasted on a come-backer by Adrian Gonzalez. Thankfully, Tim settled down and only allowed a meek run scoring groundout to Juan Uribe in the first before he finished the inning. In fact, Stauffer pitched scoreless baseball after that first frame.
Granted, his outing was not dominating. Yet it was most importantly effective, and that is exactly what the Padres needed on a night in which their projected starter did not last past the first batter of the game. Overall, the veteran right-hander allowed only one run and four hits over four innings of work.
Not to be outdone, Ross then came on in relief of Stauffer and did an effective job to keep the damage to a minimum. Ross, who like Stauffer has been a starter before, ate some very important innings and saved the Padres’ bullpen from being overused in tonight’s game. Although his control was a bit spotty, Ross pitched three scoreless inning himself and got the big outs when he needed them.
While Stauffer and Ross were tonight’s stars on the mound, credit must also go to Dale Thayer and Huston Street for their work over the final two innings. Thayer only allowed one run, and Street pitched a 1-2-3 ninth frame for the save.
I would be lying though if I did not mention that the Dodgers had plenty of chances to get back into the game though. In fact, Los Angeles got their leadoff hitter on base in seven of the nine innings! Sadly for them, their situational hitting was nothing short of garbage and their team grounded into double plays all night.
The Padres hitters on the other hand capitalized on their chances and made Clayton Kershaw pay for his mistakes.
San Diego’s hitters really made Kershaw work to get them out and off of the basepaths. Their hard work in turn caused the left-hander’s pitch-count to climb quickly, particularly early in the game. Over his first three innings, Kershaw threw 68 pitches and allowed four runs.
Chris Denorfia tied the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the first. That blast was huge, especially because it killed any sort of first inning momentum that the Dodgers had at that point. The floodgates did not open however until the bottom of the third when the top of San Diego’s batting order teed-off on Kershaw.
With Logan Forsythe on second and “Deno” on first, Chase Headley laced a one-out triple down the left-field line to score both runners. While Headley did not strike the ball particularly hard, it nevertheless enjoyed an awkward carom off of the wall down the left field line. That in turn caused Elian Herrera to misplay the ball and both runners came around the score easily.
Not to be outdone, Kyle Blanks then drove Headley in during the next at-bat with a bloop single that fell in front of Skip Schumaker. By the time the inning was over, the Dodgers were down 4-1 in a game in which the original starter only threw two pitches!
“Deno” added an insurance sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh for good measure, but five runs was more than enough for the Friars on a night in which their long relievers saved the day.
Tomorrow night’s game will be a much anticipated matchup due to the simple fact that Zack Greinke will take the hill for the Dodgers. It will be Greinke’s first game back against the Padres since he mouthed off to Carlos Quentin. Thus, tensions could very well be high between both clubs in game three of the series.