Padres home opener goes 12 innings and ends in a loss

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The San Diego Padres started their season on a tough note. It began with a three game series against the Dodgers in L.A. and now they face the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

Fans1But this is a much better team in San Diego. They made some big trades in the off season, getting pitcher James Shields from the Kansas City Royals, outfielder Matt Kemp from the Dodgers and most recently, from the Atlanta Braves: Justin and Melvin Upton, Jr. plus Craig Kimbrel, one of the best closers in the league.

Their starting rotation looks pretty solid, although the Padres gave up a lot of runs to the Dodgers, but it’s early in the season and this is a new pitching staff. In fact, the Padres of 2015 look a lot different than the team from 2014.

Catcher Derek Norris was with the Oakland A’s last season and he is proving to be a good captain on the field and a good lead off man, helping get the Padres on the scoreboard.

Padres General Manager A.J. Preller went out to get a playoff contending team this past winter and so far it looks like he’s made some good decisions.

San Diego starting pitcher Ian Kennedy
San Diego starting pitcher Ian Kennedy

Starting pitchers for the Padres home opener were veteran Tim Hudson for the Giants and Ian Kennedy for the Padres.

It got off to a rocky start for San Diego. In the third inning their starting pitcher pulled a muscle in his leg and had to leave the game. Kennedy was pitching to Nori Aoki, who had a 2-1 count. Padres reliever Odrisamer Despaigne came to the mound and walked Aoki, but then retired the next 14 batters.

Despaigne almost made the starting rotation, but if his innings continue like they did on Thursday, he just might find himself in the rotation.

The game remained scoreless for 11 innings. Both teams brought their best pitching to the mound. Although batters got on base and advanced, none could score. San Francisco got six hits and San Diego had seven.

Things got interesting in the 9th when Angel Pagan got a triple off closer Craig Kimbrel. In his at-bat Pagan said something to Padres catcher Derek Norris and the umpire, Greg Gilson warned both benches. Apparently Pagan threw his gum at Norris. Kimbrel threw a high, close fastball to Pagan and that got the batter ticked off. But, Kimbrel retired the side and the Padres came up to bat and they too would end the inning scoreless.

Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel

It was in the top of the 12th, with Nick Vincent pitching for San Diego. Brandon Crawford, who can be a tough out for any pitcher, caught a break when second baseman Clint Barmes flubbed a shallow flyball, allowing Crawford to take first base. Gregor Blanco was intentionally walked so Vincent could pitch to Justin Maxwell, a non-roster invitee to Giants training camp. He had been with the K.C. Royals for the past three seasons and wasn’t really sure he had a permanent spot on the Giants roster.

But then in the 12th inning, pinch-hitting for pitcher George Kontos (who got the win), Maxwell sent a single up the middle, scoring Crawford from second.

The Padres were unable to produce any runs in their half of the inning so the Giants won, 1-0. The usually calm Will Venable was ejected in the 12th after striking out and then manager Bud Black was sent to the clubhouse when he came out to the plate to argue with the umpire, Greg Gilson. After the game Black said he and Venable were ejected for their vocabulary. He declined to elaborate.

It was a long game and the San Diego crowd got their money’s worth, but unfortunately their Padres didn’t win. The 2015 Padres really are a much-improved team, but they have a lot of new players and they are still coming together as a team. It will be a surprise if they are not challenging the Dodgers and Giants by the end of the season.

Clint Barmes
Clint Barmes

Plus, in these first four games of the season they have been plagued by errors. Clint Barmes’s big error that put Brandon Crawford on base occurred because Justin Upton was charging to the ball from left field. They nearly collided as Upton slid underneath Barmes and it looked like that’s what distracted the second baseman.

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On Friday Night the Giants and Padres are back at it in the second of a four-game series. Tim Lincecum gets the start for San Francisco and Brandon Morrow takes the mound for San Diego.

(All photos by Claudia Gestro)