The Padres will try to keep rolling when they continue their series Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, as they’ll look for a fourth straight win while sending the reeling Phillies to a fourth consecutive loss - and fifth in six games this season at Citizens Bank Park.
San Diego (9-3) was expected to be in full rebuilding mode after finishing with 99 losses in 2008. The Padres parted ways with all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman and spent the offseason shopping ace Jake Peavy.
Peavy, however, is still a Padre for now. With Hoffman gone, Heath Bell has been dominant as the team’s new closer, going 7-for-7 in save opportunities without allowing a run.
Bell has closed the door in both of San Diego’s wins against the Phillies (4-6) this weekend, though his save Saturday came only after another dominant closer couldn’t get the job done. Brad Lidge, who was a perfect 48-for-48 in save opportunities on Philadelphia’s road to the World Series last season, blew his first save since Sept. 23, 2007, when he pitched for Houston.
The key blow came on a three-run homer from Kevin Kouzmanoff with two outs, a shot that helped seal the Padres’ 8-5 win.
“I feel bad for Lidge,” Bell said after his third consecutive day with a save. “In a closer way I feel bad for him, but I’m happy we won.”
San Diego, which has won eight of its past nine, has come back from late-inning deficits in both wins against the Phillies.
“We’ve got a bunch of grinders here,” outfielder Brian Giles told the Padres’ official Web site. “We’re constantly putting pressure on the other team each inning, and we’re coming up with big hits.”
The reason for Philadelphia’s less-than-impressive start has been its pitching, which has had far more struggles than Lidge’s first blown save in nearly 18 months. The Phillies had a 3.88 staff ERA last season - third in the NL - but they have a major-league worst 7.16 ERA through 10 games in 2009.
Chan Ho Park (0-0, 10.38 ERA) certainly hasn’t been without blame, as his first start at the back end of Philadelphia’s rotation was ugly. The veteran right-hander lasted 3 1-3 innings Sunday at Colorado, allowing five runs and seven hits while walking three, though the Phillies rallied to win 7-5 in cold and rainy Denver.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s cold,” Park told Philadelphia’s official Web site. “It doesn’t matter if it’s windy. It doesn’t matter how hot it is. You’ve got to make pitches. The bullpen picked me up big time.”
Park faced the Padres five times in relief with the Dodgers last season, but hasn’t started against them since 2001.
He’ll face quite a challenge Sunday. Giles is 7-for-16 (.438) with four doubles, a homer and four RBIs against Park, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has three homers in his past five games, though he’s only had one at-bat versus Park.
Geer was solid in five September starts last season, but struggled in spring training, compiling a 10.43 ERA.