Padres unable to back Baek
San Diego native Hamels holds Friars' hitters in check
SAN DIEGO -- Cha Seung Baek was on the mound for the Padres for six innings. Six strong innings against a Phillies team that he had never faced before. He did a starter's job and handled the opposition's lineup well enough to give his team a chance to win.
But it couldn't come through.
So on a night where Baek admitted to pitching his best game at home since joining San Diego, he still has to go home with a loss as the Padres fell to the Phillies, 2-1, on Sunday at PETCO Park.
"Well," Baek said, "that's baseball."
Early on, it looked as if Baek would suffer from some of the same struggles that had plagued him in previous starts at home. The Phils' Jimmy Rollins did a textbook demonstration of what makes a good leadoff man by leading off the first inning with a single then stealing second base. Rollins moved to third on the play as he was aided by an errant throw by catcher Luke Carlin. Rollins then scored on a sacrifice fly by Jayson Werth.
Baek had faced two batters and already one run was across. Baek would walk two batters in the inning, and it would take him 28 pitches to get out of it.
But once the first inning came to a close, Baek settled in, allowing two hits over the next four frames. Not until the sixth did he hang a slider to the same man who had homered two nights before to win the game for the Phillies, left fielder Pat Burrell.
Burrell made Baek pay for one of his few mistakes of the evening, sending it over the left-field wall for his 29th home run of the season.
"Obviously, when you go six innings and give up one [earned] run, it's a good outing," said Padres manager Bud Black. "But then there was that one slider that didn't get away from Burrell."
The Padres answered in the bottom of the inning with a run of their own to split the deficit in half. Kevin Kouzmanoff and Adrian Gonzalez hit two-out singles and Chase Headley hit a broken-bat RBI single over Rollins' head to left to score Kouzmanoff. But that would be it offensively for the evening as Phillies starter and San Diego native Cole Hamels pitched superbly, going eight innings allowing one run on seven hits with three strikeouts.
The Padres threatened again in the seventh after singles by Carlin and a pinch-hitting Jody Gerut put two men on with one out. But Scott Hairston grounded into a double play from Chase Utley to Ryan Howard to end the inning.
"Hamels is the type of guy that if he's throwing strikes and he gets you swinging the bat, he just gets you in between," Black said. "He'll get you with the fastball if you're looking changeup, and when you're looking fastball, here comes a change. He's tough. We threatened a couple of times but couldn't break through."
In a game that featured little offensive fireworks, defensively the two teams did not disappoint in aiding the two pitchers on the mound.
In the third, right fielder Brian Giles ran into the wall in the deep right corner as the ball dropped foul off the bat of Werth. The wall gave in and Giles fell with it. But he was OK and the crowd applauded his effort.
"My reaction was one of hoping that he wasn't injured," Black said. "That's the way Brian plays. You saw him crash into the wall in St. Louis right after the All-Star break. He's a guy that plays extremely hard. It didn't surprise me that he ran into the wall. It surprised me that it opened up. I'm glad it did. I'm glad it wasn't stationary."
In the bottom of the fourth, Giles was given a second chance as another ball came to him in the deep right corner of right field, but he was able to get to it without hitting the wall.
In the top of the fourth, a hard-hit ball to the warning track in center field off the bat of Kouzmanoff was snagged at the last second by Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino.
In the ninth, Kouzmanoff returned the favor by snagging a ball out the air and throwing it to second to end the inning.
Two of the three facets of the game, pitching and defense, came through for the Padres. But even hard-hit balls seemed to land in the wrong places, not allowing San Diego to string together hits and put enough runs on the board to produce a win.
"Yeah, it's frustrating, but that's part of the game," Headley said. "We hit some balls hard and the hit I had was a broken bat, but that's just part of the game. There are going to be balls where you square up that are going to be outs and then you are going to get some breaks. And sometimes it doesn't. You just play through it."
Ronald P. Clark is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.