09/22/09 12:33 AM EST
Headley's fifth hit delivers Padres' win
Game goes extra innings when Bell doesn't convert save
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
The Padres third baseman had his first career five-hit night and finished a triple shy of a cycle, but it was the fifth and final hit, an 11th-inning double against reliever Jeff Karstens, that led to an 11-6 win and allowed San Diego to head to Colorado having taken three out of four from Pittsburgh.
"He had big hits," an appreciative manager Bud Black said. "I liked the fact he was getting the ball down the right-field line, getting the head out. He showed straightaway power as well and got the ball down the left-field line for a double, too. That's hitting, when you go line-to-line with a homer to straightaway center. That tells me he's seeing the ball. He's hitting it where it's pitched."
Headley singled in the first after Adrian Gonzalez's two-run homer gave the Padres a quick 2-0 lead. It was the All-Star first baseman's 39th blast of the season, leaving him one shy of becoming just the fourth player in Padres history to reach 40 homers and the first since Phil Nevin did it in 2001.
The first of Headley's three doubles came in the third, a ground-rule two-bagger down the left-field line that sent David Eckstein to third. Eckstein came home on Oscar Salazar's single to give the Padres a 3-1 lead. It was 3-2 when Headley led off the eighth with his 12th home run of the season, a shot to center. He doubled to right in the ninth and then pulled it that way again for the game-winner in the 11th.
"The type of hitter I am, I'm at my best when I'm using the entire field," Headley said. "I don't hit many home runs to straight-away right field. I hit mine to the big part of the field. When I'm driving the ball, it's usually somewhere in the middle of the field, so it was a good night."
It might have been even better for the third baseman if one of those doubles could have been stretched into three for a cycle, but it just wasn't meant to be.
"It's pretty hard not to have an idea that it's there," Headley said. "To be honest with you, it'd have to be something where somebody fell down and pulled a hamstring or something for me to get a triple in this ballpark. It's something neat to think about, but it's not something you can try to get."
Headley's heroics picked up a bullpen that squandered a 6-2 lead, allowing the Pirates to score four times in the eighth and ninth to send the game into extra innings. Starter Wade LeBlanc was solid, if unspectacular, once again. The lefty went five innings and allowed just one run, a solo homer off the bat of Rookie of the Year candidate Garrett Jones. Since being recalled on Aug. 29, he has a 2.40 ERA in five starts.
"What he did well tonight, and hopefully it should be a continuance of what he needs to do to be successful, you saw a lot of swings that were choked off," Black said. "He got inside on some righties. You saw a lot of those popups on the infield were inside fastballs, which is something he needs to do, because everybody's going to be looking for the changeup or the ball down and away, so he's got to throw that fastball in the hands, and he did that tonight."
The Pirates pulled to within one in the eighth off the usually reliable Luke Gregerson and Joe Thatcher. Steve Pearce led off the frame with a free pass and eventually scored on a Ronny Cedeno grounder that was booted by Everth Cabrera. Cedeno and Delwyn Young, who had doubled in front of Cedeno, scored on Andrew McCutchen's double to make it 6-5.
Usually, a lead seems safe when Heath Bell enters the game in the ninth inning. But he hasn't been quite as automatic of late, and Monday turned out to be his third blown save in his last five save opportunities.
Ryan Doumit led off with a single. Lastings Milledge singled to send pinch-runner Brian Bixler to third. Bell walked Pearce to load the bases. He got Young to force Bixler at the plate, but Cedeno's weakly hit ball to second scored Milledge to tie things up and send it to extra innings. It was a blown save, but his ability to get out of a no-out bases-loaded jam with only one run allowed did not go unnoticed in the Padres dugout.
"If you really dissect it, Doumit blooped one in," Black said. "He got Milledge 0-and-2, then the hit-and-run, that was a good baseball play. First and third, no outs. Pearce had a great at-bat, bases loaded and no outs and he only gave up one. Pretty good. He didn't cave in. That was as big a part of the game as anything, him saving those runs, bases loaded no outs on the road."
"It would've been a tough one to lose," Headley added. "Heath, getting out of that inning, that's something that might get lost. He almost got out of that inning without giving up a run. To give up only one and let us keep playing, the guys in the dugout came in and had a lot of energy."
The young Padres have had a lot of energy of late. They are now 11-6 in September and have won five of the six series they have played this month.
"Guys have started to get their feet under them," Headley said. "A lot of guys have been up for a couple of months. Myself, I feel like a veteran, and I've only been here a year and a half, that's how many young guys we have. But we have talented young guys. We have some ability on the team. Guys are starting to get some confidence. It's been a lot of fun the last couple of months."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.