Padres 8, Cubs 6
“If we’re going to go somewhere everybody has got to pick it up one day,” Hernandez said. “It’s hard to put all the pressure on (Phil) Nevin, (Ryan) Klesko and (Brian) Giles. You can’t put it on them every day. If we’re going to the playoffs, everybody has got to do it.”
San Diego moved within one game of the Cubs for the lead in the NL wild-card race, loading the bases three times and driving out Prior in the fourth inning.
“For some reason Prior wasn’t throwing as hard as he always threw,” said Hernandez, who had two singles off Prior and a homer off Glendon Rusch.
“When I faced Prior the first time in my life he was throwing 96, 97. Today he was throwing 91-94 and he was a little wild and out of the zone. He was hurt for a long time. It might take a little bit of time for him to be the Prior that everybody has seen.”
Adam Eaton (7-10) gave up four solo homers in five-plus innings but got the victory for the Padres, who were coming off a disappointing homestand in which they lost six of their final seven games.
Eaton, who helped his own cause with a tiebreaking two-run single in the third, surrendered solo homers to Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Derrek Lee and Nomar Garciaparra—his first since the Cubs acquired him from the Red Sox on July 31.
“I’ll take five solo homers. Most of the time with our pitching staff, five solo homers will get us the win,” Lee said.
Sosa hit his 564th homer to move past Reggie Jackson into sole possession of eighth place on the career list. In an 0-for-15 slump, Sosa connected for a solo shot in the second inning, his 25th homer of the season. Alou followed on the very next pitch with his 27th for a 2-0 lead.
But Prior (3-3) struggled with his control and his pitch count sailed to 83 after just three innings—37 alone in the third. He allowed six runs, eight hits, five walks, a hit batter and a balk.
“I’ve had my fair share of games where I’ve struggled with control more than I have in years past,” Prior said. “But I really don’t have one specific answer why my control is not as good as I’d like it to be.”
Making his 12th start of the season, Prior missed all of spring training and the first two months with a sore elbow and Achilles’ tendon.
“When you don’t get spring training, it’s tough to get your feet under you during the season because everyone is ahead of you,” Lee said. “I think he’s still battling back from the injury in spring training. He’ll be all right.”
After Mark Loretta singled and Brian Giles walked to start the third, Prior started a double play on Phil Nevin’s comebacker, with Garciaparra making a nice pivot at second. But Prior walked Ryan Klesko, and Terrence Long and Hernandez followed with RBI singles.
After a walk to Khalil Greene loaded the bases for a second straight inning, Eaton’s two-run single put San Diego ahead 4-2.
“We needed a hit from Adam. That was huge there,” Padres manager Bruce Bochy said.
“Hitting is a bonus obviously,” Eaton added. “He didn’t want to walk me with the bases loaded,and I put a good swing on it.”
Loretta singled in the fourth, Giles doubled and Prior hit Nevin, loading the bases for a third straight inning. Klesko hit a bouncer to second off Rusch but no one covered first and the RBI single made it 5-2.
After a double play, Hernandez drove his three-run homer to right, his 10th of the season.
“I don’t know the last time we won a game and gave up five homers. Thank goodness they were solo jobs,” Bochy said.
Harmon Killebrew is seventh on the career home run list with 573. … Eaton has given up a team-high 22 homers. The four surrendered Tuesday night were a career high. … Lee has nine career two-homer games.