06/03/11 11:26 PM ET
Black tossed after dispute with home-plate ump
By Mark Thompson / MLB.com
Black was arguing balls and strikes, particularly a pitch from starter Dustin Moseley that was ruled a foul tip that the skipper thought was a missed strike to Houston pitcher J.A. Happ.
It was the second time Black has been ejected from a game this year, and 13th time he's been tossed in his four-plus seasons as a manager.
Ludwick is driven to knock in runs
SAN DIEGO -- Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick was batting .302 with runners in scoring position this season, and his 36 RBIs were tied with St. Louis' Lance Berkman for the eighth most in the National League entering play on Friday night.
But for him, that's pretty low.
"I think it might have gotten up [over .300]. It was terrible, it was like, it was awful," Ludwick said. "I mean, you look at my career, you look at my numbers, pretty good with runners in scoring position. Locked in, locked in man."
He isn't kidding. Ludwick is a career .307 hitter with runners in scoring position. It's, in a sense, what he's built his career on.
"Some people take pride in hitting 800-foot home runs, even though that's not possible, or 500-foot home runs, some guys take pride in laying down good bunts," Ludwick said. "Some guys take pride in, like a [David] Eckstein, a guy who can slap the ball around the park and move runners and do the little things.
"I take an extreme amount of pride in driving in runners."
And Ludwick has been able to do just that, even as a fly-ball hitter in a park known for making life difficult on fly-ball hitters. The left fielder drove in only 12 runs in April, but he knocked in 23 runs in May, the third most in the National League.
Ludwick knew about that reputation when he got to San Diego, but he's adapted to it. He isn't going to start swinging the bat differently all of a sudden, but with the numbers, there's no reason for him to do that.
"I mean, like the ball I hit [Thursday] night to center, I hammered that ball," Ludwick said about his eighth-inning shot against the Astros that fell just short of clearing the center-field wall. "I saw an interesting stat in the paper yesterday that said [Adrian] Gonzalez, all 11 home runs [he hit at PETCO Park last season], he never hit one after 8 p.m., because it's heavier air.
"Balls don't jump as much, and sometimes you'll get down on yourself and be like, 'Man, if I was in another ballpark.' But no, this is your ballpark, and you deal with it. There's still a lot of room out there."
That statistic about Gonzalez is true, but Ludwick isn't really searching for home runs. That's never been his main ambition behind the plate.
"I've always been told by older players, 'Don't worry about hitting home runs, don't worry about getting hits. Worry about driving in runs. If you drive in runs, that's how you win ballgames. You score runs and you drive in runs. That's what adds up on the inning column,'" Ludwick said.
Ludwick scored a run on a single to right field on Thursday. He's now hit safely in 16 of his last 20 games. In that span, he's batting .367 (29-for-79) with four homers and 21 RBIs.
That's the fifth-highest batting average in the Majors during that stretch.
"Do you play golf?" Padres manager Bud Black asked when trying to describe Ludwick's recent success. "You know sometimes when you're over a ball and you've got your club in your hand, you go, 'You know I feel over this.' Baseball's the same way. You feel good in the box, most of the times good things are going to happen.
"The feel is there ... and that comes and goes, but with the good guys, it stays longer."
That "feeling" appears to have been with Ludwick for over a month now. But, bringing up the law of averages, Ludwick said it's not anything he didn't expect to happen eventually.
"If you take away the first two weeks, I feel like I've been playing up to my capability," he said.
Bartlett trying to reverse trend of shaky defense
SAN DIEGO -- Jason Bartlett was rushing the weak ground ball from shortstop, just trying to get it to first in time to throw out Houston's J.R. Towles in the Padres' loss on Thursday. But in the process, it hopped out of his glove, and the eventual throw was late.
It was Bartlett's 10th error this season, which tied him for the second most in the Major Leagues with four other players. Only Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion has more.
"Tricky hop. I mean, really a tough play," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He even made a pretty good recovery to make the throw, and a catcher who runs decent beat him out."
A tough play to make, but ruled an error, nonetheless. Bartlett said there really isn't any one thing he can definitely point out as the cause of not just his errors, but the team's errors.
"I just think it's a lot of bad luck," Bartlett said. "Obviously, we know we're making errors, and maybe we're thinking too much about it, but you know last night with the catcher's interference and the bad hop on my [play] ... those weren't physical mistakes. Those were kind of just bad luck. It seems like we've been getting a lot of those, and regular errors, as well."
To date, the Padres have made 46 errors in 57 games, which is second in the Majors behind the Astros. After Bartlett's 10, the next closest Padre is Chase Headley (7).
There isn't necessarily an easy fix for the poor defensive play. Both Headley and Bartlett attest to that.
"A lot of times, guys will go out and get extra work on their own, but it's really tough to get an entire team out there -- more than we already are with as much traveling and as many games as we play," Headley said. "It's kind of a happy medium of getting the amount of work that you need, but not overdoing it. I think guys individually will go out and get the work that they need."
Both Bartlett and Headley have been putting in the work they think is necessary. Black said that although the team has faced its share of tough errors, it's also made too many that it shouldn't have.
"A lot of times errors come from trying to make the extraordinary play," Black said. "You make the diving stop, you get to your feet and you make a bad throw. Error. A lot of times the guy-trying-to-make-the-play error, that doesn't bother me, unless it's at a critical time ... but we're just making too many errors on plays we shouldn't be, and it's coming from everywhere."
Padres befuddled by poor play at home
SAN DIEGO -- Two months into the season, the Padres have a marked discrepancy in offensive home and away numbers. It's strange, which is the only answer manager Bud Black or any of the Padres players have at this point.
"After 162 games, if there's a huge disparity between how we played on the road and how we played at home, just everything -- defense, pitching -- then I'll really try to come up with some answers. Right now, I can't," Black said.
The numbers are certainly staggering. Left fielder Ryan Ludwick said he couldn't believe them when he saw them. But it's all added up to the Padres sporting a 15-12 record on the road, and a 9-21 mark at PETCO Park this season.
The Padres are currently one game into their 11-game homestand -- their longest stretch at PETCO this season -- which is to say they have some issues to solve at home.
"We definitely need to play better at home," Heath Bell said. "For some odd reason, we're playing really well on the road and not at home, and usually it's the complete opposite."
Black said the problem isn't a home-away problem, but rather one of inconsistent play. But make no mistake, they see the issue, and there is an increasing need to get it fixed.
"If we can just climb back up to .500 at home, I think that will be a huge push for us," Bell said. "We need to find out how to win here. I think that this month we kind of need to push, not necessarily this homestand, but this month we need to go out there and at least get to four or five games back if we're going to have a chance to make a run towards the end."
Entering Friday, the Padres were 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Giants in the National League West.
"We kind of have to show the organization up top, and we have to show our fans not to kind of dismantle us," Bell said. "I think if we're like four or five games back by the time of the All-Star break, you can kind of see that we're making a push, and we have a good team here.
"I know everybody here feels like we're playing really well right now, and we can do something special. We just need some time to catch up. We put ourselves in a hole and we just have to dig out of it, and we're slowly doing it."
Padres starting catcher Nick Hundley will begin his rehab assignment Saturday with Triple-A Tucson. Hundley has been on the disabled list with a strained right oblique since May 6.
The Padres have been careful with Hundley's rehab, not wanting him to re-injure the muscle. On Thursday, Hundley worked on his throwing, particularly from the plate, before taking batting practice Friday.
"Nick looked good," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He threw the ball well."
Mark Thompson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.