Monday, April 12, 2010

A Padres Flashback

I first visited San Diego in the summer of 2006. My brother had recently been stationed there with the Navy and was in the process of getting established and settling into a nice little one-bedroom apartment just off of Orange Avenue in Coronado. At the time of my visit, this little apartment had no furniture besides a round metal kitchen table. We walked to the beach just about every day and slept on an air mattress at night.

I had planned my visit so that it coincided with my 21st birthday and my brother's gift to me was two tickets to a Friday night baseball game between the hometown San Diego Padres and the Atlanta Braves. Our seats were four rows behind (directly behind) home plate, the best seats I've ever had for a baseball game. What ensued that night was possibly the most exciting baseball game I've ever seen.

Playing in the major leagues' biggest run-suppressing ballpark, Petco Park, the two teams combined to hit 8 homeruns and score an unprecedented total of 27 runs. It began in the first inning when, following an Edgar Renteria double, the two Joneses (Chipper and Andruw) hit back-to-back homeruns. After the Padres went down quietly in their half of the 1st inning the Braves were up 4-0 and, needless to say, the chances of us witnessing a competitive baseball game seemed pretty low.

Then, to lead off the Padres' 2nd inning, brand new first baseman Adrian Gonzalez thwacked a Tim Hudson pitch so hard that, from where we were sitting, it looked like he'd just hit a Super Ball. It landed over the fence for the Pads' first run of the game, making the score 4-1. The Braves tacked another run on in the top of the 3rd but then the Padres came back with a rally that was capped off by another Adrian Gonzalez bomb, this time a three-run homer. After three innings, the game was tied 5-5.

The Braves' swung back with two more homeruns (including number two on the night for Chipper Jones) to take an 8-5 lead but it didn't last long as Mike Piazza, in the middle of a productive (.283/.342/.501) swan song season after departing my beloved Mets, cracked a three-run dinger to tie it up.

Fast-forward to the 9th, Padres ahead 9-8, "Hell's Bells" plays, Padre legend Trevor Hoffman in the game to close it out...and he allows three runs, putting the Padres behind 11-9 going into their final at-bat. But it wouldn't end like that, not after all the fun we'd already had. It couldn't end like that. San Diego super hero Adrian Gonzalez was due to lead off! But A-Gon flew out for the 1st out of the inning. Before I continue, I must note that for some silly reason (ie, they had no reliable closer) the Braves were using a former failed Devil Ray, Jorge Sosa, to close this game out for them. Sosa had a strong season with the Braves in '05 but he was showing his true self again at that point of the 2006 season with an ERA over 5 and he never had another good season again (although he had some good games with the Mets in 2007). Sosa did manage to get 2 outs on the Padres, though. The home team was down to their last out, Josh Barfield at the plate with a man on second. Barfield kept the fans at their edge of their seats while fouling off six straight pitches and keeping the game alive. On the 9th pitch, Barfield grounded a single into center field that scored the runner from second. 11 to 10, game not over yet. To the plate stepped catcher Josh Bard.

Earlier that season, Bard had been sent to the Padres by the Boston Red Sox after embarrassing himself trying to catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleball. Upon arriving in the National League, Bard caught fire and ended the season hitting .338, by far his best season ever. His confidence was sky high when he stepped to the plate against Jorge Sosa. With two outs and the tying run on first base, Bard smoked the first pitch down the left field line sending Barfield on a sprint around the diamond which he completed by sliding in safely on a close play at the plate to tie the game 11-11.

In the 10th, Adam LaRoche led off with his second homer of the game, deflating a hyper-excited crowd. With all these homeruns and excitement, the fun was not just going to end there. The Padres came back and tied it yet again in the bottom of the 10th, Adrian Gonzalez pushing the 12th run across while grounding into a double play (the man can do no wrong). The fun did finally end there, though. The Braves came right back in the 11th inning with three more runs, putting the Padres away for good. The game ended quietly on a grounder to third base. Braves 15, Padres 12.

Why did I just type all of that? I can't remember the last time I was more excited for a new baseball season than I am this year. This enthusiasm is perfectly evident in my geeked-out baseball preview of every single team as well as in my rantings to co-workers that the Padres will NOT, in fact, suck this year. I declared on this very blog that they will even finish ahead of the Giants.

As I've mentioned before, I am now a resident of the fine city of San Diego and so I was eagerly anticipating today's home opener against the Atlanta Braves. Yes, those Atlanta Braves. And what did the Padres do? They went out and scored 17 fucking runs, defeating the Braves 17-2. That's what they did.

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