Walk-off win, Tejada have Padres buzzing
Salazar delivers pinch-hit KO after team adds veteran
SAN DIEGO -- The buzz on Thursday at PETCO Park was palpable, a vibe so lively, so fervent it would have been difficult to miss if you were anywhere remotely close to the downtown ballpark.
And the enthusiastic energy from the fans wasn't bad either.
No, the biggest shockwave felt on this day probably belonged to those inside the Padres' clubhouse, not outside of it, as players were buzzing before the game when they heard the team traded for veteran infielder Miguel Tejada.
"Word got around fast, guys in here were excited," Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn said.
In all fairness, though, the loudest ovation of the day likely came from the sold-out crowd of 42,075, which saw the Padres top the Dodgers, 3-2, when Oscar Salazar poked a pinch-hit walk-off single in the ninth inning.
It was the Padres' 10th walk-off victory of the season. The win also marked the first time this season San Diego (60-40) has gone 20 games above the .500 mark.
"It's a good day in San Diego," said Gwynn, who set up the winning run when he laid down a sacrifice bunt right before Salazar reached out and singled up the middle off Dodgers reliever George Sherrill (1-2).
Gwynn was talking about the Padres' 60th victory of the season and the addition of Tejada, the 2002 American League MVP and six-time All-Star who was hitting .269 with the Orioles. The Padres sent Minor League pitcher Wynn Pelzer to the Orioles and split the difference in the money owed to Tejada.
For Gwynn, who watched so many bad Padres teams in the past while following his dad, the Hall of Famer by the same name, the move to add infield depth and give the Padres an additional offensive weapon showed him something he hasn't seen.
"It's hard to remember the last time the Padres have added [to the roster] at this point," Gwynn said.
The only thing that made the day a little brighter for the Padres -- especially after starter Mat Latos left after five innings and 93 pitches with a cramp -- was that the victory over the Dodgers (54-48) gave them a 3 1/2-game lead in the National League West over the San Francisco Giants and a seven-game lead over the Dodgers.
"Knowing how important pitching is, you have to take it away from them," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "They're not going to give it away. The more they win, the more confidence they have."
Not that this victory came especially easy.
"It seems as though when we play teams in our division, they're good games no matter who it is we're playing," Padres manager Bud Black said.
The Padres' bullpen of Joe Thatcher, Ryan Webb, Luke Gregerson and closer Heath Bell (5-0) covered the last four innings, combining for six strikeouts and just one hit allowed.
"It was just like any other game, if anyone [in the bullpen] gets the ball, we feel good we're going to get outs," Thatcher said.
The ninth inning started when Scott Hairston lined a single into left field off Sherrill. That brought up Gwynn, who has had troubles in the past with sacrifice bunts. He fouled off a bunt but eventually got one down to allow Hairston to move up a base.
Salazar, on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, reached out on a curveball and got enough of the pitch, sending it tumbling up the middle as Hairston scored easily.
"I saw a guy always on the fastball and hands back on the breaking ball," Black said of Salazar. "Oscar is the type of hitter who doesn't scare off. He's suitable for the role he's filled on this team."
Speaking of roles, there was plenty of discussion after the game -- well, mostly from reporters -- about just where Tejada would fit in.
"I see him at shortstop, at third ... we're going to take a look left field and second base," Black said. "This guy can still play at a high level. He knows how to play and plays with a lot of energy."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.