Framing the Friars: Padres Win, Continue Sailing Along

Credit: USA Today Sports

Pittsburgh, Pennslvania

The Padres, winners of seven of their last 13, have been sharp as of late, and came out even sharper than usual. It started off with a small thing, like so many of these things do, a walk to Eric Hosmer in the first inning. He’s had a lot of those this year. Seems like such a simple thing, but that’s how it got going in the top of the first when the Padres put three on the board, with Franchy Cordero, Jose Pirela (driving in two), and Christian Villanueva (driving in one) each following up with a double to give the Pads a 3-0 lead.

Clayton Richard, coming off back-to-back eight-inning performances, something so rare no Padre had done it since 2010, sailed along like a sailor, working on 47 pitches through five as the Padres Taco-Trained the lead, maintaining it at 3-0. Clayton was on point, and when Clayton is on point, there really isn’t much else to say. After that, it should have been all Padres, all Taco Train enchilada through the Southwest Mexican starry night.

After the first, the Pirate pitcher, Kingham, had settled in nicely, working up and down on the corners, in and out on the self-serve, as the Padre hitters either got themselves out, or more typically, got sent squirreling away their nuts after chasing some ball on the edge again. Either way, not bad from the young hurler, except for the start, o yeah, except for that. Your offense can’t bail you out every night, and tonight it looked like no sayonara.

The bottom of the sixth was a gift from God, as obvious as anyone has a nose on their face. The Pirates led off with a sharp single into left field. It was fair to wonder if this was the beginning of something stirring for the Buckos. But the Big Fella had other ideas. The next Pirate hitter one-hopped a soft grounder to Hosmer at first, who, like a left-handed salamander, stabbed the ball into his glove, stepped on first, and threw to second for the easy double play. Wow. Beautiful. Just like that. Two outs, clear ocean ahead.

And even better like manna inside your own heart provided for instant nourishment on a dime, the very next pitch, Richard induced a grounder right back to him, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME, as easy a 1-3 put out as you’ll see this side of freedom, and if I didn’t have a rodeo to go dance at, I’d show ya, and then some. Three outs, six pitches. Boo-rah.

In the top of the 7th, Richard smacked a two-out double and the All-Star-playing Jankowski followed with the best bunt this side of July 4th bunting, and that’s how it felt, like a birthday, before Hosmer meekly grounded out.

But Richard dropped the hammer in the bottom half before Villanueva, turning the offense into his baby for the night, launched one 27 degrees into the night over 400 feet to left field and the Pads were suddenly up 4-0 after the top half of the eighth. Richard was absolutely cruising.

In the 8th, Richard gave up three hits and a run, and it was time to say goodbye to Clayton. Tonight’s sterling performance made it 23 and 1/3 innings pitched in three games for Richard, an almost unheard-of number in this day and age, and for which the Padre bullpen (not to mention the mental health of everything within breathing distance of the organization) will be forever grateful. In came Craig Stammen.

Life immediately took on new interest with new horizons, vistas appearing like nightmares upon the land. A Pirate double plated another run and the tying runs were suddenly on second and third with only one out. Time for the Lord and Houdini to pull some strings, tie up an act. And sure enough, the next hombre struck out like a sailor who’s seen one too many strip clubs. The Pirates last best hope of planet earth, their next hitter, hit a soft fly to left, and when Cordero gobbled it up, Katie started her way to the door.

In the top of the ninth, the Padres got to pile on. I love it when the Padres get to pile on. Raffy Lopez had a thoroughly professional sacrifice fly before Cory Spangenberg dealt with a month’s worth of frustration by hitting one 430 feet into the upper tank, straight into a fan’s two hands. What a catch; that fan has a lifetime’s worth of memories from a single Cory Spangenberg home run. 6-2 Pads.

In the bottom of the ninth, Robbie Erlin came on and retired the Pirates on a half-dozen pitches as the boys had the Lord once again to thank for finishing the game before the deluge came which had been predicted and was finally hitting the field in the ninth. (Be thankful, Cory!) And that was that, when Jankowski made yet another breathtaking defensive play to finish the game, the Padres had their fifth out of their last seven, 6-2 over the Pirates.

Good games are becoming the norm rather than the outlier in recent days, and it’s good to see. In the nick of time, as they say. If they can keep it up until Myers gets back, and other reinforcements take full effect, who knows what the Taco Train has in store for us this summer. Until then, I myself prefer the orange sauce. Caliente, with a little kick.

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