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Padres 8, Rockies 4: Villanueva moves mountains

The rookie third baseman accomplished a rare feat.

Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres
The man. The myth. The legend.
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

If starting the season 0-4 had left the Padres clubhouse in a dark mood, you couldn’t tell it from the way they played tonight. Hunter Renfroe made the greatest catch of his young career in the first inning. Tyson Ross put up a quality start in his return to Petco Park. And a rookie who spent nearly a decade toiling in the minors hit three home runs in three at bats.

While Christian Villanueva and his mighty bat were the star of the show tonight, Renfroe made his splash in the top of the first inning. With one out and a runner on first, Nolan Arenado hit a fly ball that seemed sure to bounce into the right field corner for extra bases and an early run. Renfroe patrols right because he’s not especially quick, but tonight he put the pedal to the metal and laid out to rob the Rockies of an early lead.

After a scoreless first inning, Villanueva came up to the plate. He worked Kyle Freeland to a full count before finding a pitch he liked. And boy, did he like that pitch. His towering blast landed on the upper deck of the Western Metal Building, and he was just getting started.

Villanueva gave the Friars an early lead, but it didn’t last long, as Ross ran into trouble in the third. After getting a ground out to start the inning, he gave up a single to the pitcher and then walked Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu. Arenado nearly blew the game open with a bases clearing double to left, but Jose Pirela and Freddy Galvis teamed up to gun down LeMahieu at the plate. A fly ball to left field kept a rough inning from turning into a bloodbath.

The fourth wasn’t any easier for Ross. Gerardo Parra led off with a double down the right field line, and an infield single from Trevor Story put runners on the corner with nobody out. Chris Iannetta hit a single to left to score Parra. That would have left Ross in a lot of trouble had Story not tested Pirela’s arm. The Colorado shortstop tried to take third on the play but was gunned down for the first out of the inning. Ross retired the next two batters to hold the Rockies to a two-run lead.

Villanueva came up again in the bottom of the fourth. Second verse, same as the first: A solo shot to the upper deck in left field. That cut the deficit to a single run.

Tyson settled back down after that, tossing two perfect innings to keep the boys in the game. He got the backup he needed in the bottom of the sixth as Pirela led off with a single and Renfroe bounced Freeland from the game with a double. Scott Oberg took the mound and promptly plunked the sweet, innocent Villanueva to load the bases. Freddy Galvis continued his mission to woo Padres fans the world over with a two-run single to put the good guys back on top. Carlos Asuaje might have ended the rally when he hit a soft grounder toward the mound, but Villanueva showed he’s more than just a sexy bat with an equally sexy slide at the plate for an insurance run.

The Padres had the lead after six, but they piled on in the seventh. Pirela hit a one-out single, and Renfroe put him in scoring position by drawing a walk (yes, you read that right). That brought Villanueva to the plate again, this time facing Antonio Senzatela. He fouled off one pitch before knocking his third home run in as many at bats. After another round of high fives in the dugout, he doffed his cap for the very rare Petco Park curtain call.

After Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates teamed up for a perfect two innings, Kazuhisa Makita came in to wrap things up. He started well, fanning Carlos Gonzalez for his first big league strikeout. The walk he gave up to Parra wasn’t ideal, but he rallied by retiring Story. The boys let Parra take second on defensive indifference, which didn’t work out so well when Iannetta sent him home with a single. One more walk and Andy Green wasn’t taking any more chances. He brought in Brad Hand, who picked up his first save of the season by striking out Pat Valaika. After five games, the Friars finally have a win.

They’ll try to turn this into one of those winning streak things when Clayton Richard takes the mound at 7:10 PM tomorrow.