LeBlanc, offense take care of Rockies
Gonzalez homers, drives in four to back young left-hander
DENVER -- The lessons rookie Wade LeBlanc learned from his first start at Coors Field weren't really lessons at all, more like reminders that no matter where you pitch, how far the ball travels or how light the air is, good pitching is still good pitching.
Really, the only difference is mistakes made at Coors Field don't end up as close calls -- they end up as souvenirs, which is a tangible lesson that the left-handed LeBlanc took with him from his start against the Rockies on Monday.
Staked to a 9-0 lead in a game that looked like it might be a laugher -- though the no-lead-is-safe theory applies to this place like few others -- the 24-year-old LeBlanc, making his third start, saw what a walk and two singles can quickly lead to.
The 24-year-old surrendered a grand slam to Troy Tulowitzki that didn't factor too much in the Padres' 11-5 victory over the Rockies, though it was how LeBlanc handled himself thereafter that impressed his manager more than anything.
"One of the things I learned in Spring Training is there's a self-assurance in Wade ... he knows his style. [Hopefully] he is not pitching any differently than in his Minor League career. One of the things we're trying to see if you get in a little crisis is if these guys can make pitches," manager Bud Black said.
LeBlanc did that, surviving not only the Tulowitzki home run but two innings that would follow when he allowed the first two baserunners to reach in each of the innings only to escape unscathed for his first Major League victory.
"One thing about being here [Major Leagues] will teach you is you can't dwell on one pitch," said LeBlanc, who allowed four runs on seven hits with six strikeouts over six innings.
That wasn't a lesson that LeBlanc so much learned Monday or even in his three-week stint in the Major Leagues but during the first two months of the season with Triple-A Portland, his first turn in a league where the hitters were smarter, the ballparks smaller and the results aren't always pretty.
"Those first two months taught me a lot about myself as a pitcher," said LeBlanc, who had a 9.27 ERA in April in Portland, followed by a 6.56 ERA in May.
On Monday, LeBlanc (1-1) had some latitude, though he insisted he didn't take it for granted, as the Padres (58-93) scored two runs in the first inning and then scored six during the third inning that saw Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run home run and rookie Matt Antonelli hit his first Major League home run, a two-run shot.
"We came out swinging right from the get-go," Black said. "Everyone contributed tonight."
Including LeBlanc, who had two singles, part of an 18-hit attack as the Padres feasted on Rockies starter Greg Reynolds (2-7), who only managed six outs before leaving after he allowed seven runs on nine hits.
Meanwhile, LeBlanc was coasting until the fourth inning, when he allowed the home run to Tulowitzki. In the fifth inning he allowed consecutive singles to Willy Taveras and Clint Barmes to open the inning before leaving a pitch out over the plate to Rockies slugger Matt Holliday.
Holliday turned on the fastball, sending it on one hop to Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base. Kouzmanoff cradled the ball between his waist and glove before sending it over to second base, where Antonelli was able to turn the double play.
"That ball was smoked," LeBlanc said.
In the sixth inning, LeBlanc walked Chris Iannetta and Brad Hawpe before getting Tulowitzki on a fielders' choice. LeBlanc then struck out Ian Stewart looking and got a pinch-hitter, Jeff Baker, on a fly ball to center field.
The Baker fly ball was about the easiest catch rookie center fielder Will Venable had all night, as he was tested on balls to his right and left. The former Princeton basketball player also caught a ball with a dive and slammed hard into the wall in center field going after Tulowitzki's grand slam.
"It's like running into a pick," Venable joked. "But it didn't move."
Said Black of Venable: "Will plays all out. We have seen a couple times that he's not afraid of contact. He plays the game."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.