Padres drop slugfest after LeBlanc's early exit
Offense scores eight runs off Lee, but pitching falters in loss
SEATTLE -- No matter how much video the Padres watched of Seattle pitcher Cliff Lee before the start of Friday's game against the Mariners, and no matter how carefully they dissected scouting reports of the former Cy Young Award winner, no one likely would have anticipated what happened at Safeco Field.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
A slugfest, with Lee right in the middle of it all?
"If you looked at this matchup, it looked like a low-scoring game," said Padres second baseman David Eckstein, echoing the sentiments of those inside the visiting clubhouse and, probably, just about every one of the 24,139 who bundled together on a chilly night to watch the Mariners' 15-8 victory.
Instead, the Mariners and Padres staged what was about as unlikely an offensive showcase as you'll find from two teams who typically struggle to score runs and are built more around pitching and defense.
The Mariners scored early and often against Padres starter Wade LeBlanc and hung on, despite San Diego treating Lee (2-2) the way that few teams have in recent memory, getting to him for seven runs on 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"If you were to tell me there would be 30 hits and 23 runs and LeBlanc, throwing the ball the way he's been throwing, and Cliff Lee [starting] ... that's baseball," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I like the way we swung the bats."
He didn't, however, always like the way the Padres (24-18), who fell into a first-place tie atop the NL West, pitched in the first game of a three-game series against the Mariners (16-26).
LeBlanc (2-2), who had become one of the most reliable and consistent performers in the starting rotation, struggled from the start, allowing eight earned runs in three innings.
"The life on his pitches isn't where we've seen it. It's a good learning experience for him that this can happen," Black said.
LeBlanc, who had allowed six earned runs over his first six starts this season, surrendered seven runs in the second inning to Seattle, a team that has struggled mightily with scoring runs all season.
Seattle designated hitter Mike Sweeney hit the first of his two home runs in the inning, a three-run blast to left field off LeBlanc. LeBlanc walked two in the inning and also made 10 throws to first base trying to keep baserunners close.
It didn't matter, as LeBlanc struggled in his return to Safeco Field, where last June he allowed five hits and four runs in just 1 1/3 innings and was optioned back to Triple-A Portland after the game.
"I think I was trying to be too fine and not going right at them," LeBlanc said. "That's probably the worst stuff I've had all year."
The game was disheartening because the Padres suffered a conspicuous blight on the best ERA (2.78) in the Major Leagues entering the game. The last time a team scored 15 runs in a game against the Padres was when the Braves did so on July 14, 2006.
In that pivotal second inning, Milton Bradley reached base to start the inning on a ground ball that glanced off the third-base bag. LeBlanc then walked the No. 7 and 8 hitters. He then allowed an RBI single to former Padre Josh Wilson. It was downhill from there.
"I've got to do a better job of getting a ground ball there," LeBlanc said.
The Padres finished with 15 hits, four each by Adrian Gonzalez and Eckstein, and had six hits with runners in scoring position. All four of Gonzalez's hits were to left field, including three doubles. Meanwhile, Eckstein raised his average to a season-high .304.
"From the offensive side, we had a pretty good game plan going in and I think we put a lot of pressure on [Lee]," Eckstein said. "A lot of guys watched video on him."
Gonzalez looked particularly locked in against Lee, who made a point to try and pitch the Padres first baseman, a left-handed hitter, away.
"It was definitely one of those games where both offenses kind of erupted. It was good to see on our side, but they swung the bat well," Lee said. "Adrian Gonzalez ... I couldn't figure out how to get him out. He's a pretty good hitter. It was one of those nights where I didn't have my best stuff and had to battle."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.