Kouzmanoff drove in a run with his first big league triple and Chris Young combined with Trevor Hoffman on a three-hitter, leading the San Diego Padres to a 3-0 win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
It was another night when hits were hard to come by at spacious Petco Park. While Young and Hoffman were shutting down the Nationals for San Diego’s major league-leading fourth shutout, Washington’s Shawn Hill and Micah Bowie held the Padres to four hits.
“It’s nice to see the guys made the most of four hits,” manager Bud Black said. “Our guys had some good at-bats.”
Kouzmanoff was batting just .110 (8-for-73) before tripling off the out-of-town scoreboard on the right-field wall to bring in Mike Cameron with one out in the seventh. Kouzmanoff then scored on a suicide squeeze by Oscar Robles.
Right fielder Austin Kearns leaped for Kouzmanoff’s fly ball but couldn’t reach it.
“When that ball went up in the air, we knew he hit it well,” Black said. “The visual we all had was Kearns making the play, because that’s how it’s going for this guy. But he hit it to the opposite field. He squared up.
“We’re all behind this fella,” Black said. “He’s worked hard in batting practice, and hopefully there’s more of that to come.”
Kouzmanoff was in a 1-for-23 slump coming into his key at-bat. Obtained in the offseason from Cleveland for popular second baseman Josh Barfield, Kouzmanoff has struggled offensively all season. His claim to fame, of course, is that he’s the only major leaguer to hit a grand slam on his first pitch, on Sept. 2 at Texas.
Kouzmanoff wasn’t in the clubhouse when it was opened to the media.
“He deserved it,” Giles said. “I mean, the at-bat before, he almost knocked the second baseman over. He hit a bullet. That’s the tough part of this game and we’re trying to make sure he realizes it. Even though you’re not getting results, he’s taking some pretty good swings.
“He’s got too good of a swing. It’s not going to last all year. He’ll start hitting. Us veteran guys need to take a little pressure off of him,” Giles said.
Cameron drew a one-out walk and stole second before Kouzmanoff tripled to chase Hill.
Hill said he let a fastball come back over the middle.
“I’m probably fine if I don’t fall behind there 3-1 on the guy,” Hill said.
“He made a mistake there on 3-1,” catcher Brian Schneider said. “Now that I think about it, it’s easy to say we should have thrown him a breaking ball. In that situation, we wanted to challenge him.”
Young (3-2), who had two rough outings among his previous three starts, allowed three hits, struck out eight and walked three. He’s thrown 15 scoreless innings in two home starts.
“He comes at you with his fastball; it’s no secret,” Schneider said. “He pitches down in the zone and mixes them in and out. Then he throws a high fastball that is hard to lay off.”
Hoffman pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save in eight chances, extending his big league record to 488.
Hill (2-3) allowed three runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings, struck out five and walked three. He was a 33rd-round pick by the Padres in the 1999 amateur draft but chose not to sign.
Gonzalez doubled in Giles with San Diego’s first run in the fourth.
Hill had to be checked by a trainer after he fell awkwardly while trying to field first baseman Dmitri Young’s off-mark throw on Jose Cruz Jr.’s infield single in the third. Hill, who appeared to be favoring his left shoulder, stayed in the game.
Padres 2B Marcus Giles was feeling better but missed his second straight start due to a rib cage injury sustained during a 17-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday. Manager Bud Black thinks Giles will be able to play beginning with a weekend series at Florida. … INF Russell Branyan is expected to rejoin the team Friday at Florida. He’s been on the bereavement list since Friday due to the death of his father-in-law. … Neither the Nationals nor the Padres were able to take batting practice due to a college game between UC San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene. Black visited both dugouts and was reminded why aluminum bats aren’t his favorite. “I don’t like the sound,” Black said. … Padres SS Khalil Greene struck out three times to drop to 2-for-21 in his last six games.