The All-Star break is only five days, but it felt like weeks. Life without Padres baseball just isn’t the same. The broadcast crew came back from the break without Mark Grant, so they decided to do a little housecleaning, as you can see to the right. C’mon, Mudcat, you gotta take those things home and give them a wash from time to time. Don Orsillo, don’t ever change!
Johnny Cueto came in to this game with a 1.45 ERA against the Padres through 14 career starts. Cueto started off strong for the Giants, locating his fastball and getting some strikes with the help of some quality Buster Posey frame jobs. Cueto has a knack of starting off a little loose and hitting a groove once he’s a couple of innings into the game. That wasn’t the case tonight, as he racked up two K’s in the first frame to go along with a nice sliding catch by Eduardo Nunez on a bloop foul off the bat of Jose Pirela.
Padres Clayton Richard did his best to stay away from crooked numbers, but the Giants started chipping away early. Buster Posey seems to own Richard, and he demonstrated this by flaring a single to rightfield (that probably should have been an out if not for the questionable defense of Jabari Blash) that pushed a run across in the first inning. He got himself into some more trouble in the top of the second, with a Gorkys Hernandez single putting runners on first and third. A run would have scored on the play if it hadn’t been for an athletic dive by Austin Hedges to keep an errant throw from getting to the backstop. It was partly for naught, as a single by Cueto plated a run immediately before a fine TOOTBLAN by Cueto.
The Padres showed some fight in the second inning. Cory Spangenberg led off with a walk, followed by some Jabari Blash redemption in the form of an inside fastball ripped down the third base line for a double. That would have been a whiff two months ago, so Blash may have learned something during this most recent demotion. Erick Aybar followed with a hard-fought at-bat that ended in a nice single that plated Blash to tie the game up, 2-2.
The top of the third brought more adventure for Richard in the form of an Eduardo Nunez double. Richard got Brandon Belt out and then smartly pitched around Buster Posey, who I will reiterate owns Richard, to put runners at first and second with one out. It’s almost like he knew he could get Hunter Pence to ground into a double play. Hey, guess what? Hunter Pence grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Carlos Asuaje opened the bottom of the third by smoking a double right past centerfielder Denard Span, and Wil Myers followed by drawing a rare walk. Jose Pirela hit a grounder that looked like a double play ball, but Brandon Crawford initially booted it and recovered to flip the ball to second baseman Joe Panik, but the Padres had bases at the corners with one out. Cory Spangenberg struck out as Cueto climbed the ladder on him. Jabari Blash came to the plate with another chance to do some damage, but alas he hit a popup that nearly achieved exit velocity but came to rest in Buster Posey’s mitt.
The bottom of the fourth opened with the lead runner getting on base as well, as Erick Aybar flared a hit into rightfield that he legged out to a double thanks to the lack of wheels under Hunter Pence. Austin Hedges, who had already made a couple of nice defensive plays, ripped a single to leftfield that scored Aybar from second to put the Padres ahead, 3-2. Clayton Richard followed with a subpar bunt that let them get lead runner Hedges at second, and then Manuel Margot hit the first pitch he saw to rightfield to put runners on first and second with one out for Carlos Asuaje. Asuaje struck out on some nasty Cueto stuff, and Wil Myers grounded out after absolutely crushing a ball just west of the foul corner of the Western Metal Supply building. Opportunity lost, but the Padres still held the lead.
Cueto would only last four innings in this matchup, giving way to Cody Gearrin in the bottom of the fifth. After catching Jose Pirela fishing on a slider down and away, Cory Spangenberg ripped a nasty sinker up the middle and his speed turned a single into a double. Jabari Blash came up in another key situation, and he wasn’t fooled by Gearrin’s filth at all, drawing a walk. Alas, there was a case of TOOTBLANgenberg, as Erick Aybar popped out to the infield dirt and Spangy was caught somewhere near fourth street. Another opportunity dashed, but the good guys were still up 3-2.
Clayton Richard had cruised through some scoreless innings, but the Giants got to him a little in the top of the sixth. Hunter Pence opened with a walk, as Richard’s control started to waver. Brandon Crawford looked befuddled and flew out to left, but Gorkys Hernandez got on base with a crisp single to left. Joe Panik followed with an infield single, loading the bases. Pinch-hitter Miguel Gomez hit a rocket to centerfield, and Manuel Margot did a great job of going back to track it down, but a run still scored on the play to tie the game at three apiece. Denard Span then hit a well-placed single to right that scored one more, giving the Giants the lead, 4-3. The camera caught Phil Maton warming up, and sure enough he got tabbed to come in with two outs and runners at the corners. Maton did his job and induced a ground out to end the Giants’ run.
George Kontos pitched the top of the sixth. I used to work with a guy named Jim Kondos. He was an older guy with a ramshackle past and the golf game of an old hustler. He drank his coffee black and by the gallon, smoked like a chimney, and was missing one of his canines. This was all brutally obvious when he would corner you with a story, when he would get this glint in his eye as he backed you against a wall or a bar or what have you and loudly recalled some ridiculous shenanigans while not respectfully leaving any space for the holy ghost. Jim was an absolute delight, I always wanted him on my team in the ol’ Portland money game, but my goodness, what a close talker. Anyway, George Kontos retired the Padres in order in the top of the sixth. He did the same in the seventh, so I’ll save a ¶ by just telling you now.
Ryan Buchter came on to pick up the top of the seventh, and Brandon Belt kindly fouled a ball squarely into the beautiful forehead of Austin Hedges. How dare he! Hedges stayed in the game because he’s an MF’in beast, and Belt struck out because baby giraffes don’t hit filthy sliders well, seeing as they hold the bat with them hooves. Then Buster Posey absolutely destroyed a ball to dead center because of course he did, he’s Buster Posey. Giants, 5-3. Ryan Buchter hasn’t looked any different from last season, but he’s been prone to the longball for whatever reason. Hunter Pence tried to go back-to-back but he failed to reach the “warning path” and Jabari Blash properly played it. Brandon Crawford was dispatched by way of strikeout, but the damage was done. The Padres entered the stretch down two runs, 5-3.
Gorkys Hernandez always makes me think of the Corky’s Pest Control commercials. Well, the Padres could have used some Gorkys pest removal tonight, as the leftfielder went to 4-for-4 with a double off Craig Stammen to open the eighth. Joe Panik hit a seed to right-center, and Manuel Margot went Willie Mays with a beautiful basket catch, with Gorkys tagging and getting to third with one out. Andy Green went to lefty Jose Torres to face pinch-hitter and lefthanded hitter Connor Gillespie. The Giants opted to send the bespectacled Kelby Tomlinson to the plate. Tomlinson drew a walk, but Denard Span grounded into a double play, which seems to be a theme for this Padres pitching staff.
Steven Okert took the mound for the Giants in the bottom of the eighth to face Spangenberg, and since Krukow and Miller started talking about loogies, he wasn’t likely to face Blash, Aybar, and beyond. True to form, he got Spangenberg to strike out and ol’ melon-dome Bruce Bochy came ambling out to fetch a righty, being the volatile Hunter Strickland. Jabari Blash welcomed him with a soft single to left-center. Aybar struck out looking. Austin Hedges struck out, too. Dangit. Remember when the Giants bullpen was a perpetual collapse in motion? That wasn’t the case tonight.
Brandon Maurer was summoned in a non-save situation, which hasn’t been a good idea so far this year, but he’s been the best reliever in baseball in recent weeks, believe it or not. Naturally, he allowed a one-out hit to Brandon Belt, putting a duck on the pond for Buster Posey. Thank goodness, Posey grounded out weakly and Hunter Pence faliled away at strike three, securing a clean inning for Maurer.
Sam Dyson stood between the Padres and a victory in the bottom of the ninth, with the home team down 5-3. Pinch hitter Hector Sanchez went down on strikes. Manuel Margot, professional hitter, singled up the middle to give the home fans some hope. Carlos Asuaje scalded a ball... right at Hunter Pence for the second out. Wil Myers, face of the Padres, stepped into the box to keep this game alive. He came through with a single through the middle that moved Margot to third, bringing the hot-hitting Jose Pirela to the plate. Pirela went all “Baltimore chop” with a high bouncer over the mound to plate Margot! Padres trail by one, 5-4! Cory Spangenberg took one for the team, loading the bases by HBP, bringing #blashtag hero Jabari Blash to the plate! Oh the drama! Blash took a ball high. He took a ball low. He swung through a low sinker. He fouled one off Posey’s gooch. He fouled one off someone’s foot. AARGH!!! He took one down and away to fill the count. BLASH HIT IT IN THE AIR TO RIGHT FIELD!... right into Hunter Pence’s glove. It was a gallant at-bat in a big spot, but in the end, it doesn’t even matter. Giants win, 5-4.
Tank shmank, it’s always nice to beat the Giants. That didn’t happen tonight. The Padres will convene again tomorrow to face Madison Bumgarner in his first game back from the DL. Gorkys (Corky’s?) Hernandez was the player of today’s game, but tomorrow, maybe one of our guys can play the hero.