Padres 9, Giants 6
SAN DIEGO (AP)—The San Diego Padres can finally put some champagne on ice. After four months of playing mediocre ball, they’re on the cusp of winning the NL West.
Ramon Hernandez hit a go-ahead grand slam and drove in a career-high seven runs to lead the Padres to a 9-6 win over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night, reducing their magic number to two for clinching the division crown.
“I tell you, that’s one of the prettiest sights you can see,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “When you’re down and they’re scoring every inning there, then we get the big blow there, it doesn’t get better than that, to clutch up like Ramon did tonight.”
The Padres, who overcame Barry Bonds’ 708th homer—a three-run shot—can wrap up the fourth division championship in their 37-year history by winning one of the two remaining games in this four-game series with the second-place Giants. San Diego has a four-game lead with five to play.
The Padres’ luck changed when they needed it to the most. Unable to string together big innings down the stretch, the Padres did just that thanks to an error by Giants first baseman J.T. Snow, a six-time Gold Glove winner, one batter ahead of Hernandez in the fourth.
San Diego was trailing 6-5 with two outs and two on when pinch-hitter Eric Young hit a check-swing grounder between first and second that bounced off the heel of Snow’s glove, his third error this year.
Jeff Fassero (4-7) threw Hernandez a 1-1 fastball up and away, and the catcher drove it the other way an estimated 334 feet into the home-run porch down the right-field line at Petco Park for a 9-6 lead.
“I hit it the hardest I could the other way,” Hernandez said. “When it started hooking, going to the little porch, that’s when I kind of figured I’ve got a shot at it. That’s a long way.”
Hernandez answered a curtain call, and the crowd of 29,492 gave him a standing ovation when he came out to catch the fifth. Hernandez has five homers and 20 RBIs in 19 games since coming back from surgery on July 29 to repair torn cartilage in his left wrist.
“At least I can swing harder,” said Hernandez, who has 12 homers overall. “Before, I couldn’t even swing three times in a row because it hurt so bad.”
Snow said he simply missed Young’s grounder.
“I was hoping Hernandez would hit a bullet right at me,” Snow said. “I couldn’t believe he hit a grand slam. It was a bad feeling. I felt like I let the team down.”
Said Fassero: “He hit it right into the one spot of the ballpark where it would go out.”
One inning earlier, Hernandez hit a two-run triple into the gap in right-center to tie the score at 5.
Clay Hensley (1-1) got his first major league win, holding the Giants to one hit in 3 2-3 scoreless innings. Trevor Hoffman, whose streak of 38 straight saves ended in a 3-2 loss Tuesday night, pitched the ninth for his 42nd save in 45 chances, and the 435th of his career.
The Padres finally managed to get Randy Winn out after he reached base eight consecutive times in the series, and had eight straight hits dating to Sunday. Winn had three hits, scored twice and drove in a run Tuesday night before grounding out in the sixth.
If they clinch the NL West, the next race for the Padres (78-79) would be to see if they can finish with a winning record. There has never been a division champion in a non-strike year that finished with a losing record. Since 1969, and excluding strike years, the 1973 New York Mets own the lowest winning percentage of a division champion by going 82-79 (.509) to win the NL East.
San Diego hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1998, when it was swept by the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Bonds hit a slicing shot into the left-field seats on a 1-0 pitch from Adam Eaton with one out in the first. It was Bonds’ fifth homer since making his season debut on Sept. 12 against San Diego.
“We played a great game. They just played better,” Bonds said.
Bonds needs seven homers to pass Babe Ruth (714) for second on the career list. Hank Aaron leads with 755. Bonds has 81 homers against the Padres, his most against any team, and his 41 in San Diego are his most in any road city.
The Padres tied it on Mark Sweeney’s two-run single and Hernandez’s RBI grounder in the bottom of the first.
Winn hit an RBI double in the second and Moises Alou doubled in Bonds in the third to give San Francisco a 5-3 lead. Bonds drew a leadoff walk in the third and scored from first when Alou’s double caromed past left fielder Ryan Klesko.
The Giants went up 6-5 in the fourth when Winn scored on Snow’s sacrifice fly.
Eaton was chased after 3 1-3 innings. He allowed six runs and nine hits. Giants starter Brett Tomko lasted three innings, allowing five runs, five hits and four walks.
Hernandez’s last grand slam was Aug. 24, 2003, at Toronto, with Oakland. His previous career high in RBIs was five, set Aug. 9, 2003, at the Chicago White Sox. … Giants ace Jason Schmidt, slowed this month by a groin injury, is scheduled to start Wednesday night. … Winn is 10-for-15 in his last three games.