When the Padres claimed, following the trade deadline, that they were going to continue to compete for a wild card there was a bit of a rally by the fans to get behind this team again. Over the last 6 games as the Padres' playoffs were smashed to pieces by 6 straight losses to teams at the bottom of the standings, it made the club even more difficult to watch than normal. As I started to think about what I could write about in this recap beyond the facts of the game, I got depressed thinking about the state of the team. But when I watched the first inning something became clear to me.
My attention in the top of the first inning peaked when Reds star Joey Votto stepped up to the plate. When you take away the noise around the game, the at bat came down to the veteran pitcher facing a top hitter and me the fan just taking it in. When Kennedy whipped a "here try and hit this" fastball by Votto's hard swinging bat the game was beautiful. A sight to behold. It made me feel good to be a fan. I wanted more of these moments. Ian Kennedy obliged by whiffing home run derby champion Todd Frazier in similar fashion. This high continued to the bottom of the first inning as I enjoyed Yangervis Solarte's hustle after a lead off walk. I even took some pleasure in seeing a slickly turned double play by the Reds, even though it came at the expense of the Padres and cost them their only baserunner of the inning.
In the second inning, Kennedy's luck would change as on the first pitch Jay Bruce slugged an outside pitch toward right field in a high arc that Kemp could only watch go by. A Jack Deck seated fan in a Tony Gwynn jersey caught the ball for the game's first score. In additional to the beauty of the well hit fence-clearer there was also some noticeable symmetry of who gave up and who hit the HR. Both the Kennedy and Bruce were heard to be shopped at the deadline and both teams decided to keep their players rather than make a trade in a exchange with which they weren't comfortable.
There was some ugly in this game to go with some of baseball's intrinsic beauties. Ian Kennedy walked the bases loaded in the 2nd inning before ultimately getting out of it. The Padres squandered a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the 2nd as they failed to get a hit before recording their first 6 outs. Austin Hedges overthrew a ball when trying to catching the not-so-fleet-of-foot Brayan Pena stealing. Pat Murphy got ejected for arguing balls and strikes a little bit later. And then Ian Kennedy walked another batter to load the bases for the second inning in a row and raise his pitch count into the 80s early in the game. Kennedy did get out of it again as he battled and forced a fly out from Eugenio Suarez.
But back to the beauty. The next appealing baseball moment came in the bottom of the 4th inning and it happened to also give the Padres a lead. Following a Matt Kemp single to left field, the Padres' first hit of the game, launched a big fly to right center fiend that reached the beach and gave the Padres a 2-1 lead. For those that love fun facts, it was his 20th blast of the season and came with its share of those facts. It was his 15 home run at Petco Park, which tied a mark set by Will Venable in 2013. He became the first Padre to record a 20 home run season since the aforementioned Venable and his teammate Jedd Gyorko did it in 2013. It is the first 20 home run season by a Padres left fielder since Reggie Sanders bombed 26 in 1999. It is the 39th 20 home run season by a Padres player in the franchise's history.
As much as I'd like to focus on more beauty, the story of this game can not be told without talking about home plate umpire Tony Randazzo. Ian Kennedy walked 6 batters in his 5 innings in part because he didn't have good control, but he got an assist from the umpire in that there weren't many borderline pitches that went his way. For Reds rookie starter David Holmberg, it was just the opposite. Plenty of borderline pitches were called strikes. The most egregious of which, in my opinion, was an up-and-in called 3rd strike to Jedd Gyorko in the 6th that ended the inning. Padres manager Pat Murphy got heated about the calls back in the 3rd inning and was tossed when bickering about a ball four call that was borderline. Just a sad, inconsistent performance from Mr. Randazzo.
The rest of the game a handful of pleasing moments. Derek Norris ripped a double down the line that barely bounded past an outstretched Todd Frazier at 3B. Yonder Alonso skipped a two out knock into right field. Shawn Kelly was called upon to hold the 1 run lead in the 7th inning and struck out the side. That included the 3rd strikeout of the game for Joey Votto. And in the 9th, Craig Kimbrel put down the Reds in order (a one pitch out, a Brandon Phillips strikeout and a Suarez groundout) to seal the victory. In the end, the Padres were able to put together a solid win, which is always a beautiful thing. But, I was still able to stop and smell the flowers a bit during the game and forget any bigger pictures. Always remember its still a game of bats and balls and gloves and dirt and grass and not always about playoffs and dollars and wins and losses.
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