Wade LeBlanc has moved around quite a bit since the Padres traded him for John Baker after the 2011 season. He split 2012 between the Marlins and their AAA affiliate in New Orleans, and began 2013 with Miami before moving on to Houston for four games and their AAA squad in Oklahoma City for 19 more. He signed a minor league deal with the Angels after the season and began the 2014 season with AAA Salt Lake. He got called up in late May, made one relief appearance for the Angels, and was designated for assignment. The Yankees picked him up, he made one relief appearance for them, and he was cut loose again only to be reacquired to the Angels, who sent him directly to, you got it, Salt Lake. That brings us to Thursday, his thirtieth birthday.
LeBlanc came into Thursday's game against the visiting El Paso Chihuahuas with an 8-2 record and a decent-for-the-PCL 4.04 ERA. He must have been thinking about that heartfelt card his mom sent, because he got knocked around right off the jump. An RBI double by Jake Goebbert followed by Cody Decker's eighteenth homer of the season put LeBlanc in an early 3-0 hole. The man we knew as Frenchy gave up another run in the second on a leadoff homer by catcher Adam Moore, and yet another run in the third on the good old walk-single-sac fly combo. He left the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth; his final line for the day was five earned runs allowed on eight hits and five walks.
Salt Lake's bullpen didn't fare any better. Anthony Lerew, who came in for LeBlanc to get out of the fourth inning, held the Chihuahuas in check in the fifth inning, working around a double by Moore. Lerew retired the first two batters in the top of the sixth before walking Rymer Liriano, at which point he was pulled for Dustin Richardson and everything started going El Paso's way. Richardson faced four batters and retired exactly zero of them. By the time the dust cleared and Ryan Chaffee got the final out, the Chihuahuas had batted around and scored four runs to extend their lead to 9-2. That out was the only one Chaffee recorded as he proceeded to hand El Paso four more runs before he got the hook with no outs in the seventh. After 13 runs, the Chihuahuas players were winded and took it easy on Bees (Beads?) relievers Yoslan Herrera and Michael Kohn, who combined for three scoreless innings.
Everyone in El Paso's starting lineup recorded at least one hit as the Chihuahuas combined for 17 knocks, eight of which were good for extra bases. Film director, self-proclaimed antihero, and recent TV star Cody Decker kept up his torrid hitting of recent with three hits and a team-high three RBI. His home run was his third of his past five games and fourth of his last eight. Jake Goebbert has also been on fire lately. He led the Chihuahuas in both walking and running with four of each, while doubling in one of his two official at-bats. That two-bagger was his fourth in his last five games.
Rymer Liriano went 3-5 with the first three spokes of the cycle and three runs scored. He also drove in a pair and stole two bases for good measure. Designated hitter Jonathan Galvez went 4-6 with a double, and Adam Moore doubled, homered, and walked twice in his six trips to the plate. Jace Peterson was also in the two-walk club.
While the Chihuahuas' offense was the star of the show, one of the more interesting things that happened in this game involved them being on defense. With El Paso holding a 13-2 lead going into the bottom of the eighth, manager Pat Murphy took third baseman Jace Peterson out of the game, shifted Cody Decker across the diamond, and brought in starting pitcher Jason Lane to play first base. This was Lane's first appearance at first base since 2011 when he was with Las Vegas, then the Blue Jays' AAA affiliate, and still in the early stages of his conversion to the mound.
Lane will be back on the field for the Chihuahuas on Saturday, when he's slated to start the third game of this five-game set. But before that is Matt Wisler's day. He'll take on AAA veteran Jarrett Grube as El Paso looks to jump out to a 2-0 series lead. First pitch is at 6:05pm Pacific, so you should be able to catch the last few innings once the Padres are done beating the Pirates.