How do you honor the man whose nickname is Mr. Padre? How does one properly pay tribute to the greatest player in franchise history, and one of the greatest ambassadors to the sport? How should you go about remembering the man who carried the weight of a city on his back, and always embraced it with a smile and chuckle?
Well, a win is a start.
The Padres learned of the passing of franchise legend Tony Gwynn on Monday, and subsequently lost two games in Seattle. Coming back to San Diego to take on the Mariners again, the emotion of Gwynn’s passing came to a front. Fans packed Petco Park and the Padres performed a fantastic tribute to the late Hall of Famer, including gathering the whole team behind #19 in right field, where Gwynn won five Gold Gloves.
Then, after the emotional introduction, it was time to play ball. So at 7:19 Pacific Daylight Time, that’s what the Padres and Mariners did. Aces Andrew Cashner and Felix Hernandez squared off, with more than just a notch in the win column at stake for the Padres.
A pitching duel for 7 innings, each team gave way to their relievers in the 8th inning, and that’s when the Padres pounced, scoring the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the 8th en route to a 2-1 victory.
In a 1-1 stranglehold, Everth Cabrera singled on a soft grounder to third off reliever Charlie Furbush. Alexi Amarista worked a sacrifice bunt, moving Cabrera over to second base. Then, Tommy Medica blooped a single into center field that brought a racing Cabrera home to take the lead. In the top of the ninth, Huston Street came on and worked an easy 1-2-3 inning, securing his…….19th save.
Before the dramatic finish, we saw two of the best pitchers in the big leagues square off. Both Cashner and Hernandez got through the first inning with ease, but the Mariners struck in the second. Brad Miller, no not the basketball player, singled in Mike Zunino on a grounder, and the Mariners gave their ace a 1-0 to work with.
Both aces continued to pitch well, shutting opposing offenses down until the bottom of the sixth, when the Padres finally got to Hernandez. Amarista opened the inning up with a single, and after Cashner advanced him to second on a sac bunt, moved over to third on a fielder’s choice from Seth Smith. With two outs, Chris Denorfia came up to the plate with the opportunity to tie the game. He ended up not needing to, as Hernandez threw a wild pitch that got past the catcher, scoring a scampering Amarista from third. Neither team scored in the seventh, setting up the exciting finish in the eighth.
Padres’ reliever Joaquin Benoit picked up his third win in pitching an inning of shut out relief. Furbush came away with the loss, and neither starting pitcher factored into the decision, even though they both pitched well. Hernandez gave up just three hits on the night scattered over seven innings, and struck out ten Padres. Cashner countered by allowing only seven hits while striking out two Mariners.
The Padres look to split the four game home/away series with the Mariners on Thursday, with first pitch scheduled for 3:40 pm.