So this is what Padres baseball was supposed to feel like from the start of 2015! Solid starting pitching, timely hitting from the middle of the order, bullpen taking care of their assigned business…yes, yes, this is pretty darn nice! For a season high fifth night in a row the Padres did all those things mentioned above and walked away with a victory. Tonight it was an 8-0 clubbing of the Cardinals to win the series and position themselves for their second consecutive sweep.
Kennedy was rock solid on the mound tonight going six strong innings with ten strikeouts along the way. The key was his fastball command which was as good as I’ve seen it from side to side. He was dotting both corners with it at will, and followed it up with as potent and consistent a changeup as we’ve seen from him this season, and some curves worked in later as well.
The Pads gave him a slim lead to work with in the 4th thanks to a lead off triple by Norris. Two batters later Jankowski hit a ground out up the middle that scored Norris for the first run of the game, and the young center fielder’s second RBI in as many MLB games.
Kennedy’s biggest test, and in my opinion a big turning point in the game, came in the 5th when he allowed a double and single to put a runner at 3rd with one out and the top of the Cardinal order due up. He made two good pitches on the lead off man, Carpenter, to get ahead then painted him on the outside corner for a called strike three. Carpenter immediately turned and argued the call with home ump Chris Segal and was ejected within seconds before manager Mike Matheny could get there to intervene. Not only did the out set up Kennedy to escape the inning, as he would strike out Piscotty as well for the final out, but the ejection weakened the Cards defense and offense for the remainder of the game.
The next biggest Cardinal threat came in the 7th when Ian allowed a lead off double and single to again put the tying run at 3rd, this time with no outs. Murphy went to the ‘pen and called in Kelley to face the pitcher, Martinez, who already had two hits on the day and could easily safety squeeze in the runner from third. Kelley got ahead then finished him off with his patented nasty slider for out number one. Murph again signaled to the bullpen, this time for Rzepczynski for the lefty-lefty matchup with Wong who had replaced Carpenter at 2nd after the afore mentioned ejection. Wong entered the game hitting .216 vs. LHP this season, compared to Carpenter at .246, and Wong was given the night off because he had been swinging such a cold bat of late. Now forced to hit because of the ejection of the more dangerous Carpenter he went down swinging chasing a Zep slider down and away for out number two. Right hand hitting Piscotty was the Cards last hope and Murph for the third time went to the ‘pen for the match up and for the third time it worked as Norris punched out Piscotty on a fastball away for the final out leaving the runner at third stranded. Big, big, turning point of the game!
It’s pivotal moments like that which can sway the momentum drastically from one side to the other, and both teams new that with that Houdini escape the Pads were in the king position and poised to take control of the game…and take control they did!
The next half inning the flood gates opened started by an Amarista pinch hit single. Jankowski then laid down a perfect sac bunt attempt and beat it out for a single. Solarte showed his commitment to the team with a perfectly executed sac bunt of his own to set the table. One of my biggest beliefs in baseball is that if you pay attention and do the little things well the big things will often follow, and it proved to be true once again after the back to back successful “little” bunts. Alonso walked to load the bases for Kemp and he came through with a line single to center to drive in two runs. Upton then followed with a double down the line to drive in two more and the Pads were up 5-0. A Cardinal error followed by a Barmes double and second hits in the inning by Amarista and Jankowski allowed twelve batters to ultimately walk to the plate in the inning with seven of them scoring. Fathers up 8-0!
It was cruise control the rest of the way with Quackenbush and Despaigne recording the final six outs to seal up the victory and the series win. Excellent starting effort by Ian, big hits by the big boys, execution by everyone when needed, and three big strikeouts by the bullpen all amounted to a huge win in the Friars efforts to make a late season surge.
The only fly in the ointment on the evening was the departure of Norris in the 8th after he appeared to get crossed up on a Quackenbush pitch. It looked as though he was expecting a breaking ball and instead a fastball came in and hit him right on the left wrist above his glove. He tried to catch a practice pitch but couldn’t do it and left to get X-Rays which fortunately proved negative to a fracture. He does, however, have a painful contusion that will be day-to-day at this point. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t lead to an extended absence.
The Pads will look to complete the sweep and make it six wins in a row tomorrow with Rea on the mound. The youngster will fire the first pitch of his 3rd MLB start at 1:10. Can’t wait for you to join Uncle Teddy and myself for all the action on the Mighty 1090!