Padres close rough month with solid win
Gonzalez, Kouzmanoff swat homers to support Young's effort
PHILADELPHIA -- It would be next to impossible to quantify the correlation between the 20-minute, players-only meeting held prior to Wednesday's game at Citizens Bank Park and the Padres' 4-2 victory over the Phillies.
But Padres pitcher Heath Bell, never short on sharing opinions, took a try at it anyway.
"We're a better team than we've showed. We are," he said, his right arm wrapped in ice after throwing a scoreless eighth inning which helped secure the victory.
"I really feel like times are changing. You could sense that we weren't backing down. I think the attitude was a little different today. ... I think that we needed a little meeting."
And, to a man, they said they needed this victory, which allowed them to put a tidy bow on what was a disappointing month of April that saw the team go 11-18, a month lacking clutch hitting and filled with bullpen struggles to last an entire season.
"It wasn't the greatest April," said Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who hit a two-run home run in the first inning, "but we got by it. We finished on a good note."
They finished with a flurry after starting pitcher Chris Young threw six solid innings and the bullpen trio of Joe Thatcher, Bell and closer Trevor Hoffman closed out the Phillies (15-13) with three mostly drama-free innings.
Bell might have thrown the most important pitches of the trio in the eighth when, with a runner on first base, he challenged Ryan Howard with a 93-mph fastball that the big first baseman put a good swing on, only to fly out to center field to end the inning.
"I was like, 'I can't walk him ... I need to get Howard out,'" Bell said of Howard, who represented the tying run. "I went right after him. I just kept pounding the strike zone."
The Padres offense, for its part, kept filling the bases, as it had 12 hits, but stranded 14 in the game, going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, a problem that has been evident since Opening Day.
That's not to say there weren't any big hits, just not enough of them. Tadahito Iguchi had four hits and drove in a big run in the sixth inning, greeting reliever Chad Durbin with an RBI single up the middle that made it 4-2.
Gonzalez, who can't get enough of hitting on the road, away from spacious PETCO Park, blasted his home run off Phillies starting pitcher Jamie Moyer (1-2), a 387-foot blast that settled well within the right-field seats.
Kevin Kouzmanoff reached base four times and had two hits, and maybe should have had a third had his ball up the middle in the first inning not been ruled an error on shortstop Eric Bruntlett. Among his two hits, a solo home run in the third inning, which snapped a 0-for-16 streak.
"That's what we expect out of this group ... tonight is more of what we expect," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We need to sustain what we did tonight. We've got to add on with our opportunities."
The beneficiary of the Padres' timely hitting Wednesday was Young (2-2), who overcame a rocky start like Moyer, allowing a two-run home run to Chase Utley. But Young didn't find himself in much trouble thereafter against a dangerous lineup.
"The velocity seems to be coming back, he's around the strike zone ... up, down, in and out," Black said. "When he needed to make a crucial pitch, he made it."
Young, coming off a start in which allowed one run in seven innings with 10 strikeouts in a loss to the Giants last week, walked three and struck out six. Young benefited from three double-play balls the Padres turned behind him in the first, second and fourth innings.
"It's huge ... it keeps my pitch count down," Young said of the double-play balls turned behind him. "It's a great lineup and a tough team to pitch to. You don't expect to come in and shut this team down."
Gonzalez, who isn't a big fan of team meetings, said that sometimes even the obvious has to be said, which is the same message Bell conveyed: The Padres are a better team than they have shown thus far.
"We've got to have that confidence to win. If you go through the motions, things are not going your way," Gonzalez said. "Good teams believe in themselves."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.