Gregerson's rare off-night costs Padres
Dodgers capitalize on two mistake pitches to take opener
SAN DIEGO -- There's a big difference between having a pitch "jump out of your hand" as Padres' reliever Luke Gregerson explained it and actually having a pitch jump out of your hand, which wasn't at all what he intended.The good kind of jump relates to velocity and is used in a positive light. The other kind, as it applied to Gregerson on Friday, ended badly, as two mislaid sliders he threw in the seventh inning helped the Dodgers rally for a 4-3 victory over the Padres. A double by Russell Martin, followed by a two-run home run by Matt Kemp, effectively spoiled Gregerson's 26th birthday and elicited mixed reviews from the sold-out crowd of 42,056 that appeared to be split on its allegiance. "The two [sliders] that got hit kind of jumped out of my hand before I could finish it," said Gregerson, who saw his streak of 16 1/3 scoreless innings end when Kemp's ball barely cleared the fence, much to the chagrin of center fielder Tony Gwynn. Gregerson, standing in front of his locker, demonstrated what he was talking about -- as the ball literally popped out of the top of his hand just before the point of release, which caused the opposite effect of what Gregerson wanted from his primary out pitch. "The velocity is off, no rotation on it and it sort of spun right over the plate," Gregerson said, dissecting a rare bad outing for him at PETCO Park, where he allowed all of three runs over 41 2/3 innings last season. The two runs he surrendered to the Dodgers (18-17) were the first runs he's allowed at PETCO Park this season. Gregerson's blown save spoiled an uneven outing by starting pitcher Jon Garland, who was in position for his fifth victory before the lead got away from the Padres (22-13) in that fateful seventh inning. Garland, who entered the game with 1.71 ERA, had trouble with his command almost from the start of the game, though his occasional knack for keeping his sinker where it belonged -- buried in the strike zone -- bailed him out of trouble twice. Garland loaded the bases in the second inning on a questionable double down the line in left field off the bat of James Loney, a ball that appeared to have landed in foul territory before bouncing into the seats, but third-base umpire Mike Reilly said it was fair. Garland put two more baserunners on in the second before getting pitcher Ramon Ortiz to hit into a 1-2-3 double play on a bunt with a close play at first to end the inning. The Dodgers then opened the third inning with four consecutive singles off Garland, the last of which, a bullet to right field off the bat of Manny Ramirez, brought in a run. But Garland got Loney to pop up to the infield before Casey Blake bounced into a double play of his own, this of the 6-4-3 variety, to end the inning. "He battled; he wasn't on top of his game, but six innings and two runs against a lineup that's really swinging the bat pretty good," Padres manager Bud Black said. For Garland, though, there was little solace, other than he stuck around long enough to turn the ball and the lead over to Gregerson, who has deftly handled the seventh inning this season, as part of the Gregerson-Mike Adams-Heath Bell trio to close games. "Way too many balls, way too many walks. ... I gave them too many opportunities," he said. "It definitely seemed like a big struggle out there." Things might have been different had Gwynn come up with the ball that Kemp hit over the wall in center field in the seventh inning, as Gwynn got to the wall in time and then leaped just to have the ball glance off the end of his glove. Gwynn looked in his glove and then pounded the padded wall in center field in disgust. "It was a great effort; he timed it extremely well, tracked the ball," Black said. "... His reaction told me he got awfully close." The Padres scored three runs off Ortiz in the first four innings, as Adrian Gonzalez hit his seventh home run -- his first since April 25 -- in the first inning. The game took a turn for the Dodgers when they got the ball into the hands of their bullpen. George Sherrill, Jeff Weaver (2-1), Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo and then closer Jonathan Broxton combined for five innings with two hits allowed and five strikeouts. "Ortiz gave us what we needed. He kept us in the game," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "We were able to pitch great out of the bullpen, and that was the difference tonight. The guys did a great job for us."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.