Cabrera's slam has Padres walking off
Shortstop hits unlikely homer in ninth in comeback win
SAN DIEGO -- His job is to play defense, get a bunt down and, generally, cause havoc on the opposing defense with his speed much more so than his bat.
But home runs? Those ranks pretty far down on the list of things San Diego rookie Everth Cabrera considers imperative to his professional well-being.
"But if they go out every now and again, they go out every now and again," Cabrera said, smiling.
One did Friday, and it couldn't have come at a better time for Cabrera and his San Diego teammates as the Padres rallied for a 6-2 victory over the Mets at PETCO Park, thanks to Cabrera's walk-off grand slam against Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez.
That's no mistake. Chalk that up as a grand slam for Cabrera, the culmination of a nine-pitch at-bat against Rodriguez that was good for Cabrera's second home run of the year and just his ninth professional home run in 1,054 at-bats.
"That's exactly what I was thinking," said Padres center fielder Will Venable, tongue in cheek when asked if all San Diego needed Friday was a Cabrera grand slam in order to win a game that they trailed 2-0 entering the seventh inning.
Cabrera wasn't the only Padres player to have a hand in this victory or even the inning that saw Kyle Blanks start the inning with a walk and then score on Venable's double that kicked around in the right-field corner.
The 6-foot-6, 285-pound Blanks, running hard and intently watching the right arm of his third-base coach, Glenn Hoffman, chugged around the bases and scored the tying run on what was a close play at the plate that the Mets (51-58) protested, claiming catcher Brian Schneider tagged Blanks while reaching back across the plate.
"Honestly, it felt like my fingers hit the tip of the plate. Not much of it, though," Blanks said. "You just leave it to trust. ... I trust him [Hoffman]. I was just thinking, 'Don't stop. He's [waving his arms] for a reason.'"
Venable took third on the throw home and stayed there as Rodriguez issued a walk to Henry Blanco before intentionally walking pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar to load the bases for Cabrera, who made an error in the first inning that led to two runs and struck out on three occasions earlier in the game.
"It was definitely one of my worst games. I definitely felt bad," Cabrera said, using first-base coach Rick Renteria as translator. "But I felt at the last moment that I was going to get it done."
Determined not to get buried by a Rodriguez changeup like he did in April when the two teams opened Citi Field in New York, Cabrera fell behind 0-2, stayed off a pitch that was in the dirt, then fouled off three of the next four pitches he saw. Cabrera eventually ran the count full before turning on a fastball down in the strike zone, sending it just over the wall in right field.
"A great at-bat against the premier closer," Padres manager Bud Black said.
That's when chaos ensued. Cabrera clapped his hands together and spiked his bat to the ground before circling the bases, finishing at the plate where he was mobbed by the rest of his teammates.
"What can you say? Everything worked that inning," Venable said. "I have been on base before with him [Cabrera] in that situation ... the confidence he has and everyone has in him shows up.
"Here he is, facing K-Rod [Rodriguez] in a huge situation, and there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to what he needed to get it done."
The Padres (46-65), who have won eight of their last 11 games, fell behind early, as the Mets scored twice in the first inning, thanks in part to an error by Cabrera who dropped a throw from catcher Blanco on a stolen base by Angel Pagan.
Those were the only runs pitcher Kevin Correia allowed over six innings. Three relievers, Joe Thatcher, Mike Adams and Heath Bell (4-1), combined for three scoreless innings to keep the game close.
The Padres didn't accomplish much over the first six innings against Mets pitcher Oliver Perez, who took a shutout into the seventh inning before allowing a run-scoring double to Chase Headley that cut the lead to 2-1. Perez struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.