Padres 5, Dodgers 2
SAN DIEGO (AP)—Trevor Hoffman’s teammates hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him off the field.
Well, “Hells Bells,” that’s the sweet ride you get after saving 500 games.
Hoffman, who had a dubious start in San Diego 14 years ago, became the first big leaguer to reach that plateau when he saved the San Diego Padres’ 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
Hoffman was able to sneak an 87 mph fastball—rather than his trademark changeup—past Russell Martin for the final out. His teammates surrounded him and patted him on the head before David Wells and Heath Bell lifted the bullpen ace onto their shoulders and hauled him toward the dugout.
Hoffman addressed the crowd and then, once inside the clubhouse, the Padres toasted their popular closer with champagne.
“It’s a special moment from an individual standpoint to be at a number that looks a little bit different than some of the other guys that have accrued a lot of saves,” said Hoffman, who’s always downplayed his accomplishments. “But our focus is definitely on winning a division and moving deep into the postseason and winning a championship.”
Hoffman jogged in from the bullpen accompanied by AC/DC’s ominous “Hells Bells” as usual, and a standing ovation from the crowd of 31,541 at Petco Park.
The 39-year-old right-hander allowed Nomar Garciaparra’s leadoff double in the ninth, then retired the side for his 18th save in 20 chances this season.
Hoffman set the career record with his 479th save on Sept. 28 against Pittsburgh, breaking Lee Smith’s old mark of 478. Hoffman finished the 2006 season with 482.
While noting that 500 is only 22 more than Smith’s old record, Hoffman said, “It’s special in its own right. I think it’s like trying to compare your kids to one another. They’re special in their own way.”
Hoffman said he was thinking of Mark Merila, the Padres’ longtime bullpen coach who has been battling a brain tumor for years and wasn’t at the ballpark Wednesday night.
The right-hander was an unknown rookie with two saves when the Padres obtained him in a controversial five-player deal on June 24, 1993. It was one of the big trades of the Padres’ “fire sale” that summer as they shed as many big salaries as they could. Gary Sheffield, who won the NL batting title the season before, was one of the two players who went to the Marlins in the trade.
Hoffman was booed in his first few appearances as a Padre, which, he said, made his stomach churn.
He said he’s never set goals, “otherwise you can kind of get caught up in the bigger picture, and the game will humble you.”
Hoffman has converted 14 straight saves since blowing save chances in consecutive appearances April 26-27. The second of those blown saves came on Trevor Hoffman Night against the Dodgers.
Geoff Blum drove in four runs to back Greg Maddux’s sharp pitching, and the win kept the Padres in first place in the NL West. San Diego has won four straight and nine of 11.
“The guy’s done something nobody in baseball has ever done,” Maddux said. “For me personally, I felt privileged to see it.”
Wells said Hoffman deserved to ride off the field on his teammates’ shoulders.
For once, the big left-hander was relatively speechless.
“Words can’t explain when you reach a plateau like that, a number like that,” Wells said.
Said Dodgers manager Grady Little: “They started the game with one Hall of Famer and they finished it off with another. That is the way the game is supposed to be played. They just outplayed us out there tonight. They outpitched us and outhit us.”
Jeff Kent had three hits for the Dodgers, including a solo homer off Maddux.
Maddux (5-3) has won five straight home starts following his loss to Colorado in the home opener on April 6. He held Los Angeles to two runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings, walked one and had no strikeouts. It was his 338th career win.
Maddux has won four straight starts against the Dodgers to improve to 15-7 lifetime against them. He was obtained by the Dodgers in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on July 31, then signed as a free agent with San Diego on Dec. 13.
The Padres chased Randy Wolf (7-4) after five innings, handing him his first loss since April 30. Wolf had won four straight decisions over five starts. He allowed five runs and eight hits, struck out six and walked three.
“It was a really bad night,” Wolf said. “When I had to make a pitch, I caught too much of the plate.”
Blum started his second straight game in place of shortstop Khalil Greene, who has a sore right elbow.
Batting in the eighth spot, Blum was the catalyst as the Padres jumped on Wolf for a 5-0 lead after three innings. He hit a two-run double into the left-field corner in the second inning, then added a two-run single to center in the three-run third.
“I’ve been on the receiving end of “Hells Bells” and it’s much nicer to be on the giving end,” Blum said.
Padres newcomer Hiram Bocachica was aboard with a double ahead of each of Blum’s hits. Bocachica drove in a run in the third.
The Dodgers had three hits off Maddux in the fifth but scored only one run. Kent and Luis Gonzalez opened with singles before Russell Martin brought in Kent with a sacrifice fly. Tony Abreu hit a two-out line drive into the left-field corner and was thrown out trying to go to third before Gonzalez crossed the plate.
Kent pulled the Dodgers to 5-2 when he homered to center field on a 1-2 pitch from Maddux with one out in the seventh. It was Kent’s ninth.
Dodgers closer Takashi Saito wasn’t available again due to a strained hamstring. … Dodgers OF Marlon Anderson, on the DL with a sore right elbow, is scheduled to fly to Las Vegas on Thursday to begin a rehabilitation assignment.