Two game winners, two diving catches, and a grand slam made the cut for the top five plays of the 2013 season. The importance and level of difficulty are used to separate these plays from the many remarkable plays recorded by the Friars in 2013.
#5 – Nick Hundley’s game winning single in the bottom of the 15th against the Cubs, August 25th
The Padres’ second longest game of the season did not see any runs until the top of the 13th when the Cubs scored twice. The Padres matched the Cubs in the bottom half of the inning when Ronny Cedeño scored on a wild pitch after hitting an RBI triple. In the top of the 15th, Dale Thayer pitched his way out of a bases loaded one out jam. In the bottom of the 15th, the Cubs chose to intentionally walk Alexi Amarista with two outs and Logan Forsythe on second. Nick Hundley made the Cubs second-guess their decision to give Amarista a free pass by batting in Forsythe with a single to centerfield. Hundley has spent his entire career with the Padres, and he made sure his team persevered in its gritty performance against the Cubs.
#4 – Jedd Gyorko’s tie-breaking grand slam in the top of the 5th against the Giants, September 29th
The rookie second baseman provided fireworks in the last series of the season for the Padres. After homering the day before against the Giants, Gyorko cracked a 2-0 pitch into the left field seats with the bases loaded. The grand slam put the Padres ahead 6-2, and capped off Gyorko’s amazing September in which he hit 7 home runs with 20 RBIs. This grand slam makes the top five because it highlights the impressive offensive numbers put together by Gyorko during his rookie season. Gyorko finished with 23 home runs, 63 RBIs, and a .444 slugging percentage. The Padres second baseman is a must watch for the 2014 season.
#3 – Alexi Amarista’s diving catch to rob Juan Uribe in the top of the 8th against the Dodgers, June 20th
It is always nice beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Amarista did his part in contributing to the 6-3 win on June 20th. With two outs in the top of the 8th, Juan Uribe hit a fly ball to the right centerfield gap with a runner on first. The ball continued to tail away from Amarista, but at the last moment he extended every inch of his 5’ 8” frame to catch the ball. Amarista is a player who does it all for the Padres, he plays the outfield as well as the infield, and it would be difficult to match the athleticism required to make such a play. Perhaps, Amarista was showing Will Venable that he is not the only one who can make spectacular plays in the outfield.
#2 – Will Venable’s over the shoulder diving catch to keep the Padres alive in extra innings against the Giants, June 17th
With two outs and a runner on second in the bottom of the 12th, Juan Perez of the Giants hit a fly ball to centerfield. If the ball dropped the game was over, but before the ball could hit the warning track in straightaway center, Venable dove for the ball over his shoulder, caught the ball, and did a head first slide on the warning track. The Padres went on to win after scoring twice in the top of the 13th.
Venable had a breakout year with the Padres showcasing his ability to hit the long ball and provide timely defense. He hustles down the line and can steal bases with relative ease. The two-year contract extension he signed in September will give the Padres a player who is on an upward trajectory, and can help bring the team back to the postseason.
After a great at bat by Yonder Alonso that resulted in a walk, Manager Bud Black decided to pinch-hit Denorfia for Venable. On the first pitch, Denorfia provided the pinch-hit performance of the year with a drive over the 396 sign in straightaway center. Chapman challenged Denorfia with a 98 mph fastball and Denorfia delivered the only offense necessary for the Padres. The decision by Bud Black to take the left-hand hitting Venable out of the game and elect for the better match up between Denorfia and Chapman gave the Padres an edge in another hard fought win.
Denorfia is a lifetime .280 hitter and a versatile outfielder. Look for him to help the Padres considerably during the 2014 season.