Hayhurst has 'amazing' debut in loss
Padres rookie allows three runs in four innings for no-decision
SAN FRANCISCO -- His opening salvo included a declaration that he was "struggling for words" to describe how he felt about his first Major League start, but it was evident rookie pitcher Dirk Hayhurst was anything but tongue-tied Saturday.
"It was amazing, it was nerve-wracking, it was inspiring. There are a lot of adjectives. None of them do it justice," Hayhurst said.
Hayhurst, gregarious and humble, spoke more of his overall experience at AT&T Park than any one particular pitch in the Padres' 4-3 loss to the Giants in front of a crowd of 37,081 who likely had never heard of Hayhurst before Saturday.
Heck, Hayhurst's Padres teammates probably didn't have much more information to go on, aside from those who were teammates in Triple-A Portland with the right-hander, who has spent parts of six seasons in the Minor Leagues.
Hayhurst wasn't the story Saturday, but he was a story, as he lasted four innings while limited by a pitch count. He allowed three runs on five hits with two strikeouts and two walks and didn't factor in the decision.
He was long gone by the time Rich Aurilia legged out an RBI triple in the eighth inning as the Giants (57-72) won for the second time in as many days over the Padres (48-81), who dropped their sixth consecutive game.
But Hayhurst considered himself a winner if for no other reason than his presence in the visiting clubhouse. Not just a warm body with a good story, Hayhurst, who has penned a "non-prospect diary" for Baseball America made enough good pitches to keep the Giants off-balance after a rocky start.
"I thought he battled back well," Padres catcher Josh Bard said. "It was tough because his fastball command was a little erratic. We started using his curveball as the game went on. But he gave us a chance. I thought he competed well."
Hayhurst, recalled to take the place of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux in the rotation, allowed two runs in the first inning and then yielded a two-strike, two-out RBI single to the opposing pitcher, Barry Zito, in the fourth inning before he departed after 76 pitches.
Hayhurst didn't kick himself for not burying a third consecutive curveball to Zito a little lower in the strike zone. He even consulted the videotape after the game and ascertained that Zito hit a good pitch.
"He did his job," Hayhurst said of Zito, who allowed three runs over eight innings to top the Padres for the second time this season.
Said Bard: "I would call that pitch 101 times if I had the opportunity."
The Padres' bullpen covered the game over the next three innings, thanks in large part to two scoreless innings by Clay Hensley, though he walked four, followed by a scoreless seventh inning by Mike Adams.
But Adams ran into trouble in the eighth inning when he allowed a double to deep center field to Aaron Rowand as the ball glanced off Scott Hairston's glove. Adams and the Padres got a reprieve when Rowand was thrown out at third base by Adrian Gonzalez on a ground ball.
Two batters later, Aurilia lined a ball into the gap in right-center off Adams that allowed Pablo Sandoval to easily score the go-ahead run.
That hit made a winner of Zito, who is 4-3 since the All-Star break after a 4-12 start. He has twice tamed the Padres, the last time on Aug. 2 at PETCO Park when he threw eight shutout innings, using his fastball and changeup effectively.
On Saturday, Zito leaned more on his breaking ball as well as moving his fastball around the plate, especially inside on hitters, which got him a mix of nine ground-ball outs and 10 fly-ball outs.
"It looks like he threw the ball inside to pretty good spots. The changeup might not have been as good as it was the last time we saw him. But today, he got inside on guys with his fastball when we were looking for the off-speed stuff," Padres manager Bud Black said of Zito.
Staked to a 2-0 lead, Zito (8-15) allowed an RBI triple to Jody Gerut in the fourth inning and a sacrifice fly to Chase Headley that tied the score. He also allowed an RBI double to Headley in the sixth inning.
But that was the last hit the Padres would get, as Zito covered the final two innings before turning over the ball and the lead to closer Brian Wilson, who worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 34th save.
Afterwards, in the hush of the visiting clubhouse, Hayhurst spoke candidly about how he felt about his outing, the experience, his diary and what might lie ahead.
He could make his next start Thursday at PETCO Park, though there's a chance he could get moved to the bullpen if either Chris Young or Shawn Estes come off the disabled list between now and then.
At any rate, Hayhurst isn't heading back to Portland. San Diego general manager Kevin Towers said he wants to get a look at what Hayhurst can do. Hayhurst himself is a little curious himself, especially after getting his feet wet Saturday.
"I'm hungry for more," he said. "I'm pleased I survived it, but I'm anxious to get another opportunity."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.