Padres Nearly Mount Largest Comeback Win of the Year


These are not the same Padres that we saw for the first half of the season.

Sunday’s game against the Cardinals looked on paper to be a pitcher’s duel. Adam Wainwright against Odrisamer Despaigne. But it turned out to be a far more interesting game than that.

The Padres’ rookie righthander Despaigne was miserable for his first 40 pitches. An inability to locate his fastball allowed the Cardinals’ hitters to sit on his breaking stuff. And hitter after hitter did. Matt Carpenter (3-for-4, HR, double, 2 runs, 3 RBI) led off with a single, and a walk and a single later, the bases were loaded. John Jay drove in the first run with a base hit, Peter Bourjos followed with another RBI single, and then Tony Cruz drove in two with the Cardinals’ fifth hit of the frame.

Carpenter led off the second inning with a home run, and the Padres were looking at a 5-0 deficit. But then, inexplicably, the St. Louis hitters started swinging early in the count. Not one of the first 10 hitters swung at Despaigne’s first pitch, but four of the next nine hitters did. And Despaigne took full advantage of the change in the Cardinals’ approach, retiring the next nine hitters in order on 20 pitches. So, although long-reliever Tim Stauffer was up and throwing in the bullpen with only two down in the first,  Despaigne managed to get through four innings and saved the bullpen from a very long outing.

As Despaigne kept the Cardinals from extending their lead, the offense showed the resilience they’re becoming known for in the second half of this 2014 season. On Saturday, the team came back to win for the first time this season after facing a four-run deficit. Could they repeat Saturday’s magic?

Led by Jake Goebbert, the first baseman who was called back up to the bigs after Yonder Alonso suffered a season-ending injury earlier this week, the Padres began their comeback. After Wainwright mowed down the Padres, allowing only a Seth Smith single in the first four innings, Goebbert got the first of his two hits in the fifth, a single to center field. That seemed to break the stranglehold that Wainwright had over the Padres hitters, and Will Venable and then Alexi Amarista followed with a pair of hits, breaking up the shutout. 

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Tommy Medica then pinch-hit for Despaigne, and after a 10-pitch battle, drove a long fly ball to center, allowing both runners to move up. That was the second aggressive baserunning play by the Friars in this game, and it was good to see the team attacking the basepaths like this. It paid off when Yangervis Solarte mashed a shot off of Wainwright’s leg for an infield single, cutting  the lead to 5-2.

Goebbert led the attack again in the sixth. After Jedd Gyorko raised his season average to .200 with a 2-out single (hitting .309 since returning from DL), Goebbert drove a triple to right-center field, driving in Gyorko, and then scored on a throwing error. What had seemed an insurmountable lead against one of the game’s best pitchers was now a very winnable 5-4 game. Goebbert finished the day 2-for-3 with a run scored. For some reason, he was not credited with an RBI on his run-scoring triple. That will likely change in the post-game review.

Tim Stauffer came in to relieve Despaigne in the fifth. Stauffer had pitched in only one game in the past two weeks, and was a little rusty. After getting through the fifth inning, Stauffer allowed a one-out single to speedy center fielder Peter Bourjos. Manager Bud Black gambled that Bourjos would be running, and called for two consecutive pitchouts. Bourjos was not running, and unfortunately, Stauffer was now in a 2-0 hole against Tony Cruz. Stauffer ended up walking the number eight hitter, and St. Louis manager Mike Matheny decided to stay with his ace, and had Wainwright sacrifice. That brought up Carpenter, who already had a single and a home run on the day. On a 2-1 pitch, Carpenter drove in ball into right-center for a double, putting the Redbirds on top 7-4.

Blaine Boyer came on in the 7th to do what he’s been doing very effectively the last three weeks, holding the opponents without scoring. Boyer pitched a scoreless two innings, his 10th scoreless outing in his last 11 appearances.

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With rally caps on, the Padres nearly pulled it out in the ninth inning. When Cardinals’ closer Trevor Rosenthal issued three walks to the first four batters, Abraham Almonte pulled the Friars within one at 7-6, bringing Seth Smith to the plate. Smith lined a shot to first base, but Matt Adams knocked the ball down, second baseman Kolten Wong picked up the ball and threw to the pitcher covering first for the second out.

Despite the strong comback, San Diego just couldn’t get it done today, though, as Yasmani Grandal flied out to left to end the game.

But make no mistake about it. These Padres are not the same team that we saw for the first 90 games. This team believes it can win, and has shown that it will fight until the very last out. And that, my friends, is a very refreshing change.