07/15/07 4:38 PM ET
Notes: Germano can rely on past
Padres righty looks to key matchups vs. Bonds, Pujols
By Jason Grey / Special to MLB.com
It's the fourth inning, two are out, and the count is full. Albert Pujols chases the next pitch down and away and misses. Strike three. Inning over.
Fast forward to June 25.
It's the sixth inning. Nobody is on with two down. Barry Bonds flails at a changeup in the dirt. Strike three. Inning over.
Those are just two at-bats over the course of a 162-game season, and to the casual observer there is nothing particularly memorable about them.
But they are for Justin Germano.
"The two guys I wanted to face most in my career are Pujols and Bonds," said the Padres right-hander, "and I held both of them hitless when I faced them, and I even got to strike both of them out. I always go back to those two games. The last two games have been a little rough, but I remember that I've held the two best hitters in the game hitless, and I can go back to that and tell myself that if I can get them out, I can get anyone out."
Germano joined the rotation on May 7 and went 5-1 with a 2.67 ERA over his first nine starts. However, he hit a bit of a road bump in his last two outings before the All-Star break, allowing 12 runs in 10 2/3 innings.
"The last two starts I got behind too much, and I can't afford that," Germano said as he prepared to make his first post-break start against the D-backs on Sunday.
"We've talked about it," said manager Bud Black. "He's at his best when he throws strike one. It's true for most pitchers."
Although there are rumblings the team is looking to add another starting pitcher, Germano has the confidence that he can continue to do the job as the No. 5 starter.
"I've just been waiting for that one chance to get up here and get a few starts under my belt," said Germano, "rather than go out there and pitching and thinking, 'If I don't do well, I'm going back down tonight.' You can pitch kind of scared rather than being relaxed.
"The start that I've had this year has been a real confidence booster that I really can do this at this level."
And when that confidence may start to wane a little bit, he can always remember that he held Bonds and Pujols to a combined 0-for-6 with two strikeouts.
"If I start doubting myself, I always go back to those two games to tell myself I can get anybody out if I stay focused and make my pitches," Germano said.
Kouzmania: With another homer on Saturday night, Kevin Kouzmanoff continues to swing a hot bat. He's hit in five straight contests and seven of his last eight, with eleven hits, five extra-base hits and six RBIs in that span.
He's looking like the hitter the Padres were expecting him to be when he was acquired in the offseason, and "Kouz" is upfront about what he thinks his issues were earlier in the season.
"I think I was trying to do too much," said the third baseman. "I was widening my strike zone. I thought I could hit everything and put everything in play, and that wasn't the case. I was just too aggressive. As time went on and the more reps I got, I became a little more patient up there and just tried to wait for better pitches to hit."
Over the hump: Khalil Greene's homer on Saturday night was his 16th of the year. That's notable because it set the single-season mark for Padres shortstops.
The previous record-holder? Greene. Three times.
Although finally getting past 15 is, among other things, an illustration that Greene has not suffered the injury woes he has had the last three seasons, he doesn't see it as a big deal.
"I'm not going to say it's insignificant," said Greene. "I just think that the shortstops that were here before did other things with the bat, and other things were their forte offensively. There are different types of players."
How low can you go? Considering he was available to any team in the past Rule 5 Draft, general manager Kevin Towers certainly unearthed a gem in reliever Kevin Cameron. The right-hander has allowed just one run all season in 29 1/3 innings, and his 0.31 ERA entering Sunday's game was not only the lowest among all Major League relievers, it is the lowest single-season mark in Major League history for any pitcher that has thrown at least 29 innings.
"It's gone better than I could have ever imagined," Cameron said about the beginning of his Major League career. "I've got a lot of veterans in the 'pen to feed off of and learn from, and I'm just taking it pitch by pitch."
Lights out: He's been getting it done for so long that it's easy to take his performance for granted, but all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman is really in a groove at the moment. Entering Sunday's game, Hoffman has converted his last 21 save chances dating to April 28, allowing just one run in his last 25 1/3 innings.
Up next: The Padres return home to begin a three-game series with the National League East-leading Mets on Monday night. David Wells will take the mound for the Pads against New York's Jorge Sosa. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT at PETCO Park.
Jason Grey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.