After Monday night’s 8-5 win, we were anxious to go to Tuesday afternoon’s San Diego Padres game. We got to the Peoria Sports Complex several hours before game time, and spent a couple of hours at the practice fields. That’s great stuff, pitchers working on pickoff moves to third base (Fernando Rodney looked like he hadn’t thrown to third base in ten years), catchers fielding popups (the failure rate showed that this is no easy task), and lots of guys working on their hitting. Steve Finley stopped to sign autographs for about 15 minutes, but we just said hi. No reason to add to the man’s writer’s cramp.
Game time! We were sitting in the fourth row behind home plate. There are no bad seats at Spring Training, but these seats were really awesome. The Rangers’ leadoff hitter, Shin-Soo Choo, was standing about 15 feet away from us.
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Andrew Cashner was on the mound for the Pads, looking just as hirsute as ever. His hair is party in the front, and party in the back, too. Cash caught a bad break when Choo hit a little blooper behind third baseman Alexi Amarista. Notable on the play was left fielder and Rule 5 draftee Jabari Blash’s complete failure to back up Amarista. Never even broke in on the ball. Rougned Odor followed with a frozen rope RBI double to left center, then proceeded to steal third base. A Mitch Moreland sac fly made it 2-0 and after an out, Robinson Chirinos popped the ball up to Norris. Good thing they did those popup drills a few hours earlier. D’oh! Norris dropped the ball, and Chirinos was safe at first.
Norris was clearly upset with himself. As we would soon see, an angry Derek Norris might be a good thing. Two pitches later, he threw out Chirinos on an attempted steal.
Down 2-0 after a half inning. Not a good way to start the day.
Travis Jankowski, coming off a lousy day in batting practice, showed that predicting baseball is tricky, and led off with a single and promptly stole second. Cory Spangenberg advanced him with a grounder, and almost earned himself a hit by flying down the line. And up came De-No. He must have still been mad at himself, because he crushed a fastball into the left field seats, tying the game at 2.
In the second, Cash nearly made a great play on a comebacker smashed by Elvis Andrus, and the ricochet to Spangenberg and a quick throw nearly beat the runner to the bag, but instead it’s a leadoff single. Fortunately, we’ve got Derek Norris on our side. Norris eliminates his second would-be base thief in as many innings.
In the Padres’ half of the second, Jabari Blash led off. Blash absolutely crushed the first pitch about 450 feet into center field, narrowly missing the batter’s eye, and landing almost at the top of the hill. I told my wife Blash would be a good guy to get a picture of, and she got the camera out just in time to take this shot of him watching the ball leave the yard:
And I should mention, this pitcher isn’t some kid competing for the number five slot in the Ranger’s rotation. This is 17-game winner Colby Lewis the Padres hitters are teeing off on.
In the third, after a leadoff single, Choo hit a fly ball to left field, out into Blash territory. The official scorer called it a hit, but Blash clearly just missed the catch. “That’s why a guy who hits 450-foot home runs is wearing number 62,” said a guy in the crowd. Cashner picked up his teammate, though, and retired the side on a popup and a double-play grounder.
The Padres weren’t done scoring, not by a long shot. Jankowski got hit by a pitch leading off the third, and went first-to-third on a Spangenberg hit. Jankowski came up limping, though, and was replaced by one of those guys with a uniform number in the 80s with no name. We’d find out later who this was.
I like Derek Norris when he’s mad. He followed with a two-run double, giving him four RBI and two caught stealings in three innings.
Wil Myers followed with a single, and after an Alexei Ramirez sac fly, up came Blash. This time, he hit a towering fly to left center. It looked like it was out from our angle, and it must have looked that way from first base, too. When the ball was caught at the wall, Myers was halfway between second and third, and was doubled off first base.
That seemed like a good time for a beer, so I headed over to Hooter’s in left field and tried an Elysian Pineapple Habanero Sour. That, my friends, is a fine brew on a hot day.
Cashner picked up two strikeouts during my beer run. Then, in the Padres fourth, he smashed a long, ground-rule RBI double. He later scored on a Spangenberg hit. After a tricky first inning, this was turning into a pretty good day for Mr. Cashner.
It was 9-2 Padres. Then, after the fifth inning, there were mass substitutions. Then the prospects took over.
In the sixth, after a Rocky Gale single, number 88 ripped a double to deep right field, so we decided to figure out who he was. It was Auston Bousfield, the Padres’ fifth-round pick in the 2014 draft. The 22-year old outfielder finished last season at AA San Antonio. Gale and Bousfield both scampered home on a triple by Jemile Weeks, who is the Padres’ leading hitter this Spring at .484. Andy Green was quoted as saying it’s hard not to notice Weeks this Spring, as he’s putting up three hits every day.
Bousfield and Weeks weren’t done. Later, Bousfield walked and scored again, while Weeks roped another RBI base hit in the seventh.
One of the few sour notes in the game was the first four hitters faced by rule 5 draftee Josh Martin. His inning started walk-triple-homer-double, so he allowed three runs before recording an out. But then he showed why the Padres picked him up by following that with three consecutive strikeouts.
These rule 5 guys are going to be interesting to deal with this year.
Bousfield drove in another run with a hard-hit single in the Padres’ 3-run ninth. Number 88 finished 2-for-3 with a walk, a RBI, and three runs scored. Weeks ended up 3-for-3 with three RBI.
The final score was 17-5, giving the Padres 35 runs scored in the last three games.