05/01/08 10:43 PM ET
Padres run into tough luck, fall to Phils
San Diego denied several hits, lose on late home run
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
In the third inning alone of the Padres' 3-2 loss to the Phillies, Adrian Gonzalez lined into a double play. Then, with a runner in scoring position, Khalil Greene's liner toward right field was snared by a leaping Ryan Howard at first base.
Want more? Brian Giles was robbed of a hit on a ball up the middle by Eric Bruntlett. In the eighth inning, Tadahito Iguchi saw his drive toward the wall in right-center run down by Shane Victorino.
The Padres' latest loss certainly had some of the familiar elements that beleaguered them during the month of April, including spotty hitting and the bullpen allowing late runs.
But for one night, at least, San Diego appeared to be more snake bit than anything else.
"That's all we can do is hit the ball hard," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We hit the ball hard and had nothing to show for it. We've got to continue to hit balls hard."
If there was a simple saving grace from this loss -- San Diego has now dropped 12 of its last 15 -- it was that the Padres (11-18) felt like, despite getting five hits off five Phillies pitchers, that the bats are starting to come around.
"The first three innings, it felt like we were squaring up balls," said Padres pitcher Randy Wolf, who struck out nine and allowed two runs in his first start against his former team. "Line drives right at guys. I think our guys are starting to square things up more. ... I'm seeing better swings."
Just not enough of them, as the Padres were derailed by an eight-inning solo home run off the bat of Howard, who jumped all over a 2-0 fastball from Padres relief pitcher Joe Thatcher (0-3), sending it into the right-field seats for the eventual game-winner.
"He eventually is going to get hot ... this might be the start of it," Black said of Howard, who also drove in a run with a double off Wolf. "He hit some balls [Wednesday]. It's just a matter of time before he gets over .200. He's too good a player to be kept down."
The Phillies (16-13) might be praising Gonzalez in the very same way, especially after he hit his second two-run home run of the series in the same inning (first) and with the same hitter on base (Iguchi) as the Padres jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
That early lead wouldn't last long as Wolf ran into about his only difficult inning of the night in the third, when he yielded three doubles, including two with two outs.
It was Howard's double to left-center that brought in the Phillies' first run, though it appeared left fielder Scott Hairston might run the ball down on the warning track. But the ball eluded Hairston, which gave Pat Burrell a chance to follow with a game-tying double of his own.
"Scott was playing deep, got a good jump. It would have been a great catch," Black said.
The pitch that Wolf, who went six innings, was kicking himself over wasn't the one that he made to Howard but the fastball he left out over the plate to Burrell, a hitter that Wolf knows all too well.
"I knew that he was going to be aggressive, I knew his tendencies," Wolf said, noting he should have started his former teammate out with something soft and not a fastball. "If I make that pitch, it's 2-1."
Wolf settled down shortly thereafter, as he allowed one more hit in the last three innings. Better still, the left-hander appeared to buckle down when he needed to. He walked two in the fourth, but struck out Jayson Werth for the third out.
One inning later, Chase Utley singled off Wolf, which gave him little wiggle room with Howard and Burrell due up. But Wolf proceeded to strike out Howard, Burrell and then Pedro Feliz to end the inning.
"I thought his stuff was good," Black said. "He executed his pitches. He just made the two mistakes."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.