FriarBall: April 2007

Monday, April 30, 2007

Another game, another loss

Is it me or are a lot of the Padres games lately coming down to the last out or extra innings? After their 17-inning marathon Sunday, the Friars have fallen to fourth place in the NL West but are still one game above .500.

I don't think you can complain too much when the bullpen pitches 12 solid innings before giving up a single run, and I think the only thing to do here is to get excited for this week because it is just what a struggling team needs as the Padres face the Nationals for three games beginning Monday and the Marlins. If there is one way to get back on track, bringing Washington into town is about the best way to do it and I should know considering I live in Nationals country. An undefeated Jake Peavy facing a winless John Patterson should help too.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Back in the win column

You know it's a good game when these things happen:

1. The Padres snap a three-game losing streak by beating the Dodgers 3-2.

2. Trevor Hoffman comes in and saves the game, actually looking like the league's all-time saves leader.

3. Kevin Kouzmanoff actually gets a hit. Now we need to work on getting two hits in the same game. Small steps.

Let's hope the Friars can make it two in a row against the Dodgers.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I don't want to talk about what happened with Trevor Hoffman and the fact he blew his second straight save. The only comment I want to make after Friday's game is this: Can we move to the American League so Jake Peavy can DH for Kevin Kouzmanoff on nights he's not starting? I know I am beating a dead horse here but this lack of production at 3B as a whole isn't funny anymore. Here's to hoping we can beat the Dodgers on Saturday and snap the losing streak.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Curse of Ken Caminiti?

It's no secret that the Padres have made a priority of finding a top notch third baseman the past couple of years. But is there a reason why the last five players who have tried to fill the hot corner have all failed?

In a sport where superstitions rule over common sense, it seems the Padres may have their own curse to try to exercise.

Since former NL MVP Ken Caminiti passed away on October 10, 2004 the Padres have tried highly touted prospect Sean Burroughs, the versatile Geoff Blum, the ancient and "I can only hit at Coors Field" Vinny Castilla and the versatile Todd Walker and are now hoping highly touted prospect Kevin Kouzmanoff - who was brought over for highly touted second baseman Josh Barfield - can take control of the role.

But like everyone before him, Kouzmanoff has struggled in San Diego after a promising showing at the end of last season in Cleveland. Kouzmanoff's average before Thursday's game against Arizona was .132, and hasn't been above the Mendoza line since the team's third game of the season, back on April 5. Blum, who has replaced Kouzmanoff late in games, owns an even more repulsive .080 average with only two hits in 25 at bats.

If this is just a slump, hopefully one of these guys will break out of it before they cost the team a chance at the postseason. But if it really is a curse, someone break out the voodoo dolls and lets see if we can't help this thing pass before we wait 80+ years like some teams have had to wait to break their curses causing their World Series droughts. I would actually like to be alive when the Padres finally win the big one.

Hopefully, Kouzmanoff will straighten out and prove there is no curse, but if he fails to secure the role

Unbelievable Implosion

Even the best players have off days but who would have thought that Trevor Hoffman would have blown a save against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday. What's worse, is he gave up the home run to a struggling Stephen Drew, who had no home runs and only five RBIs before that.

It seemed like Jake Peavy pitched a terrific game, striking out 16 over seven innings - including nine straight, one short of a MLB record held by Tom Seaver - and giving up only two hits. What a waste. But again, even the best players - including Hoffman, have off days.

If this was a rookie or combustible closer - think Brad Lidge - I would be worried but I think after a game like this you just have to feel that we'll get the Diamondbacks the next time we're in that situation. And Hoffman, who is closing in on 500 saves, will be money when he faces Arizona again. Because in San Diego, it's always Trevor Time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Welcome back Johnson

So Randy Johnson picked up right where he left off last season, looking like he should have retired a couple of years ago. Giving up six runs in five innings isn't exactly the most dominating performance, especially coming from a pitcher whose mere size alone used to be enough to intimidate even some of the best hitters.

Luckily for Johnson - and nerve wracking for us Friar fans - the Diamondbacks decided not to roll over as easily as he did. And Kevin Cameron did his best to let things get interesting as well but the Padres did prevail 10-5. Good thing Trevor Hoffman is still around to clean up the messes left by other pitchers.

The win was not only the a great way to start off the team's three-game set at Arizona, but it also got David Wells his first win of the season, meaning all five of San Diego's starters now have at least one win with 3-0 Jake Peavy taking the hill tomorrow.

Day off for me too

While I am still new at this and have a lot going on in my personal life, I am also going to take today off like the Padres in hopes of getting some other things done.

Let's hope the down time does David Wells some good and he can pick up his first win Tuesday. Let's hope Randy Johnson still has some of that Yankees rust on him.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

No sweep this time

Just as quickly as the offense was getting going, it was shut down once again in Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Rockies. From what I'm reading it was because Rockies pitcher Jason Hirsch pitched a more-Greg Maddux style game than Maddux did, who is still in search of win No. 335.

Maddux has won 334 games pitching a smart-style game where he takes what he has and puts it where you can't hit it. The only problem for Maddux this year though is that teams are hitting him.

The other problem facing the Padres in general is the fact that they are stranding a ton of runners on base. With another eight Sunday I believe the Padres will strand more runners by the end of the season than the other 29 MLB teams combined.

After 1o games in 10 days, the Padres will get a day off to see if they can figure out how to score more runs before sending over-the-hill David Wells to face over-the-hill Randy Johnson. And while it will be Johnson's first outing since he left New York, I am interested in seeing what the over-under will be at for Tuesday's game. I'm thinking 20 runs combined.

Bats alive

Someone finally found the power switch to the Padres offense. After scoring more than five runs in two of the first 15 games, San Diego has scored 11, 11 and seven runs in its last three.

Being on the east coast and not having many of the games on TV out here, I don't know exactly what happened starting Thursday but its nice to see the Friars on a three-game winning streak where they have scored 29 runs.

It's also nice to see that even despite still dealing with the blister on his throwing hand, Clay Hensley picked up his first win of the season, meaning David Wells is the only SD starter still looking for his first win of the season.

Wrapping up their series in Colorado on Sunday, the Padres could sweep their first series of the season if Greg Maddux is on. A win will also cut the Dodgers' early season NL West lead, which is always a positive. Let's see if the Padres can put up 12+ runs in the humidor-free zone of Coors Field.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Gonzalez, Young paying off

Winning three of their last four games, the Padres have to be pleased with the results of the trade that brought Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez to San Diego. With Gonzalez going 2-for-6 Friday night with a three-run home run in the first inning and Young giving up only one run in seven innings, one thing is obvious, the Padres took the Rangers to town.

Getting Young and Gonzalez, along with Terrmel Sledge for Adam Eaton (who is now with the Phillies after being injured most of last year), Akinori Otsuka (an on-again, off-again closer) and a minor league catcher, GM Kevin Towers is a genius.

Even if Young, Gonzalez and Sledge never play another game in the majors, the Padres are the winners in this deal. Now most people will tell you that a trade cannot be judged after one year, but looking at what the Rangers have to show for the trade, this winner of this trade was obvious even last season.

While I was sad to see a talented pitcher like Eaton leave, it is just further evidence that Towers knows what he's doing when he adds or subtracts a pitcher from the roster. Eaton hasn't been able to pitch much and Young has lost only one start in his last 26 road starts.

So when Towers looks to make a big splash before this year's trading deadline, I will remember how successful this trade was and even if one of my favorites are involved, I will know that it will work out in the Padres' favor.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Back to being the ace

Even though his ERA ballooned from 0.90 to 2.13 after giving up four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched in an 11-6 win over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday, Jake Peavy has to feel like things are going back to normal.

After a down 2006 in which Peavy was 11-14 with a 4.09 ERA, it's good to see a return to form and a return to being the true ace of the staff. While the other starters have already had ups and downs this short season, it's nice to see Peavy off to a 3-0 start and already keeping his ERA below his career average 3.45.

This Padres need a successful Peavy if they even want a shot in the playoffs this year and even though Peavy will eventually lose at least one game this season, if he can limit teams to fewer runs than he gave up today, San Diego should be in position to win every game he pitches.

Facing the Colorado Rockies tomorrow, San Diego should be able to win its second straight as it sends Chris Young to the mound, a pitcher who likes to face the Rockies. In five starts versus the Rockies, Young is 3-0 with a 2.97 ERA - just the type of performance the Padres need to get on a roll.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Go directly to first but do not pass go

In their second extra inning game in two days, the Padres seemed to seemed to have no problem getting runners on base. But once those runners got on, there seemed to be no place to go. Unfortunately for them, this time it cost them.

Eleven runners were left on base Wednesday against Arizona and the overworked bullpen finally gave in in the 12th. If the Padres are going to succeed this season, they will need their starters to pitch further into games, something only Jake Peavy seems to be accomplishing at this point.

Luckily for San Diego, Peavy will be on the mound tomorrow night and should give the Padres their best chance to split the two-game series. And luckily for the bullpen, Peavy should be able to give a couple of tired arms a break also.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Still unrest at third?

If Kevin Kouzmanoff was brought in to be the solid-hitting third baseman the Friars so sorely lacked last year, then why in Tuesday's game against the Cubs was he pinch-hit for with runners on second and third, for a guy whose season batting average was even worse than the .147 he was hitting coming into the game?

Nothing against Geoff Blum but if Kouzmanoff is the future of the franchise, shouldn't he be given an opportunity to perform in those types of situations, especially if he still has less than 100 MLB at bats in his career?

The Padres were already struggling coming into Tuesday's game and when they could score only three runs despite having 16 runners on base in the first nine innings, I could see why Bud Black would be trying to find offense wherever he could. But to use Blum in that situation just seemed like the wrong time.

I am also disheartened by the fact that the Padres threw away a huge opportunity to score in the 10th when Russell Branyan tried to score on a shallow ball hit to center field, but when you are struggling at the plate as a squad, I guess the logic is to be more aggressive and hope your guys can make some plays on the base paths. I guess if it had worked it would have been a genius move but because it didn't we are now wondering what the thought process was on that decision.

Fortunately for Black, Blum eventually came through as the Padres beat the Cubs 4-3 in 14 innings and split the two game series. Now, we'll see if David Wells can get in the win column against the Arizona Diamondbacks at home Wednesday to open another two-game set.

Hensley blistered

Facing the slumping Cubs should have been enough and Alfonso Soriano leaving the game in the 5th inning with an injury only down 3-1 should have been insurance for Clay Hensley's first win this season. But for some reason, the Cubs offense got going and the Padres were drubbed 12-4.

Now Hensley and manager Bud Black said the blister that had been bothering Hensley previously was not a factor but at this point, the Padres should be searching for anything that might signify why a pitcher that went 11-12 with a 3.71 ERA last year suddenly can't win a game.

With Tuesday's game ending the short series in Chicago, the team needs Greg Maddux and his veteran savvy to avoid losing its fourth straight game and second straight series. Of course a little offense would help too.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Remembering Jackie

It's no secret that MLB honored Jackie Robinson on Sunday - the 60th anniversary of his first MLB game - and for Padres fans, we got to see all of the festivities since they faced the Los Angeles Dodgers, Robinson's first team back when the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn.

And while it was a pain to see our guys lose 9-3 and drop to 7-5 on the year, it is nice to see that we have still started the season decently and it is kind of poetic that the Dodgers won a game that had so much meaning and celebration behind it.

While I had seen all sorts of columns and stories talking about Robinson's significance on the game and how good or bad it is to let anyone who wants to wear Robinson's league-wide retired N0. 42, I have to say it was pretty cool to see all of the Dodgers wearing Robinson's number.

And while the loss was the first series the Padres lost this year, it is nice to see that three of our five pitchers have won at least one game. The struggles of Mike Cameron are a little troublesome but with a solid starting staff and a bullpen that didn't allow a run in its first 29 1/3 innings it seems the Padres are in a good rhythm as things get going this season. Again, Sunday's play was disturbing but with the struggling the Chicago Cubs next on the schedule, look for the Padres to continue to build on their early success this season and look for Clay Hensley to pick up his first win of the season.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hello blog readers

Two weeks into the baseball season and I'm finally ready to become a blogger. For those of you checking this site out, yes it is basic. But as I get off the ground I hope that the quality of my content will outweigh the design until I can truly get into it. Now for a little about me.

I am currently a sports writer for a group of newspapers in Southern Maryland and I have started a blog for two reasons: One, it has always been a dream of mine to be a sports columnist and be able to give my views on national and important or quirky stories. Two, in my current position I am unable to do that but because the internet now allows anyone to write, I have decided to put my two cents out there.

Now I bet most of you are asking what a Maryland resident is doing rooting for the Padres and to keep the answer short I grew up in San Diego and got into baseball right as Mr. Padre Tony Gwynn was in the midst of his Hall of Fame career. There are two teams I am passionate about and as far as baseball goes, the Padres are it.

I hope that as I write real comments and posts that people will enjoy reading my point of view and maybe learn something in the process. While the second one isn't necessarily a given, it is a reason why a journalist writes. So enjoy and feel free to comment. Let's go Padres.