Soooo close to locking up a nice come from behind victory today over the Royals. One pitch away, as a matter of fact. But that is one of the beautiful things about the game, and at times the most agonizing, that you do need to record the final out. There is no clock to save you. No penalty flags to negate a big play. No way to take the air out of the ball, or ice the puck, or take a knee. You have to make that final pitch. The Pads were down to needing the final pitch with 2 outs, no one one, and a 2-run lead…but it slipped away. Double, home run and just like that the lead was gone, and an inning later the victory went to the other team. That’s baseball….and you have to appreciate it even when it doesn’t go your way.
The Pads found themselves in a comeback situation in the 5th after starter Ian Kennedy allowed single runs to score in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings. Honestly, though, I thought Ian threw better that the box score suggests. Yes he made a couple of mistakes in the first, but after that settled down, and made a lot of good pitches. Unfortunately there are days when your good pitches don’t turn into outs like you’d like them to. The sinker at the knees is hit on the ground but finds a hole. The slider away is fouled off instead of rolled over to the third baseman. The 2-2 FB in hits your catcher’s mitt, and he frames it perfectly and the umpire vapor locks and doesn’t ring him up. Then the follow up 3-2 pitch gets flared opposite field. I’m not making excuses for him, and you know that when a guy is not pitching well I’ll say so, but I thought Ian did a lot more good things today than bad.
The first part of the Pads come from behind rally came in the third with the long ball. First Yonder Alonso went deep, crushing the ball over the fence in CF just to the right of the batter’s eye. Yasmani Grandal then singled to set the table for the 88 Train, big Kyle Blanks, who hit the first pitch he saw about as hard as you can hit a ball sending it sailing over the left field fence. In fact, the Royals left fielder never budged to even pretend to be able to catch it, and KC’s pitcher, Jason Vargas, who threw it stood there and watched it, seemingly admiring the display of strength as well, even though it was at his expense.
Part two of the rally came in the 7th when again the Friars posted a 3 spot, this time going small with 2 singles, 2 BB’s, and a fielder’s choice ground out with a throwing error. Not sexy but it did work and the Pads were up 6-4 heading into the 9th. All looked good as the first two batters of what was hoped to be the final frame made outs, against the closer du jour Don Roach. But the next batter doubled on a 3-2 pitch out over, and the next batter hit an opposite field HR barely over the right field fence the score the tying runs. The following inning the Royals scored 3 to take back the lead they healed through the first 6, and locked it down for the W in 10.
So what positives can we glean from today?
- Ian Kennedy looked better that he had in some previous outings, and despite the 4 runs that crossed in his 5 innings of work, I really do believe he did more good things that bad and deserved a better fate. My take away was that he’s really close to being ready for opening day, and his stuff will play better away from the Cactus league conditions.
- Kyle Blanks and Yonder Alonso both crushed their home runs today. I can’t help but to think that now that Yo is healthy he may start showing some better power numbers as the year goes on, and he continues to mature as a hitter. He played all 10 innings today, the first time this spring I believe that a pads regular has played a full game all spring.
- Yasmnai Grandal started for the second time this spring, and again looked symptom free of any discomfort or range limitation with his repaired knee. Biggest balancing act now for Buddy is getting enough work in for Yas to get him ready skill and endurance wise for opening day, but also don’t let him over do it. There was an inning ending play at the plate today where Xavier Nady threw out a runner trying to score from second. X threw a pea perfectly to Yas, and it was really interesting to see how he camped himself out in front of home plate allowing the base under total access to it. He waited until he had complete control of the ball in his glove before going to apply the tag, and then did so as the runner was trying to slide to the outside part of the plate. It was an absolute clinic by both the catcher and the base runner holding to the letter of the law of MLB’s new home plate collision rules. It was all done very deliberately, but the play was still exciting to watch unfold. So far I’m a fan of the new rule, despite my initial misgivings about implementing such a rule. MLB crafted it well, taking away the cheap shot, but not the importance of the play at the plate, and the ability to still have contact so as to not emasculate the game. So far, so good MLB!
- Tommy Medica had yet another hit, but more importantly we are slowly starting to get a feel for how the LF experiment is working. Specifically he actually had to make a couple of plays today, granted not to difficult, but still executed them smoothly. The more he moves out there, even though the number of put outs have been lower than hoped for thanks to the limited opportunities offered by the baseball gods, the more confidence I am gaining that he may actually be able to play out there. Another anecdotal piece of evidence came during his hit today which was a triple that required him to get around the bases quickly. He actually showed some surprisingly speed, especially for a former catcher, digging around the bases. It give you reason to speculate that his range in the OF might be at least adequate if not above average.
- Nick Vincent and Joaquin Benoit threw well. Each posted a scoreless inning. Third good outing in a row for Vincent after starting spring with a couple of roughies, but he seems settled in now. Benoit has been dominating not allowing a run in his six 1-inning outings, while allowing 3 hits, 0 BB’s, and punching out 11…nice!
Before the workouts this morning the Pads made 3 more cuts which you can get all the details for by clicking here.
Buddy said he expects Chase Headley to be in games in the next few days. Alex Dickerson, who sprained his left ankle yesterday is not day-to-day. Apparently he sprained it pretty good, and is out indefinitely right now. Casey Kelly came out of his live BP just fine yesterday, and will do that a few more times before pitching a simulated game, which would then lead to competing in actual games. I think that’s all the camp scuttlebutt for now.
Tomorrow’s contest will be at Peoria again, this time against the Rockies. Tyson Ross will pitch that game against the division rivals. Uncle Teddy and I will bring the call on the Padres.com webcast. Hope you’ll join us!