SAN DIEGO (AP)—Ever the prankster, Padres right fielder Brian Giles came up behind the media scrum surrounding Trevor Hoffman and asked, “What do you think about all the talk show callers and everything, Trevor?”
Hoffman just smiled.
He’s piled up the most saves in baseball history, reaching 526 after needing only eight pitches in a perfect ninth inning in Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Houston Astros. But it’s the blown saves that occasionally make Hoffman a marked man in his own city, especially now that he’s 40, in the final year of his contract and had offseason elbow surgery.
There were the two blown saves in three games at the end of last season, including that epic 13-inning loss at Colorado on Oct. 1 in the wild-card tiebreaker game.
There was the one Wednesday night that got the radio talk shows and Internet fan forums buzzing. Hoffman allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 9-6 loss, including Lance Berkman’s three-run homer, and was pulled.
Hoffman knows it comes with the job. Although he’s always been a standup guy with the media, he’d much rather settle into the background.
“It’s a long season,” he said. “We don’t want to continue the overanalyzing of each individual save that comes out. This is a team sport. Obviously it’s a role that I have that can garner a lot of attention. I’ve had a little bit of an up and down thus far at the beginning of the season, but I’d much rather it just kind of go away and I get on a string and not talk to y’all for a while.”
Hoffman said losses leave him feeling “like you’ve been kicked to the curb.”
Despite Thursday’s win, he was awfully serious.
“I’m just trying to keep it on an even keel,” he said. “I’m trying to put it in perspective. I understand, coming into the year, the questions and concerns, what have you. But those aren’t coming from anybody in here. To have a hiccup last night, they’re going to happen. I want to get into a flow this season. The role’s going to bring attention, but I’m trying not to have as much attention as I’ve had. I’d prefer to kind of be anonymous and be one of the guys.”
It was his second save in three chances. The Padres won three of four against the Astros in a season-opening series.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, who hit a two-run homer in the first inning, was impressed with Hoffman.
“That says a lot about him and his character,” Kouzmanoff said. “With a tough loss last night and him coming back the day after, maybe there’s still a thought in his head. He comes back and battles and closes them out.”
Asked about the mentality that allows him to bounce back, Hoffman said: “I don’t know if I really have a specific answer for that, other than the fact you have to have the courage to go out there and try to get it done. There’s not a secret recipe, It’s going out and being aggressive and trusting your stuff.”
Manager Bud Black didn’t hesitate calling on Hoffman for the third straight game.
“What my eyes are telling me right now is that he is throwing the ball very well,” Black said. “His delivery looks good, he’s not laboring, the ball’s coming out of his hand, the velocity’s there, the changeup’s there.”
Black said he didn’t worry about the outcome.
“Let’s let this season play out,” he said.
Scott Hairston went 3-for-3 and scored two runs while batting leadoff in place of Giles, who got the day off to rest his surgically repaired right knee.
After the Astros tied it at 2 in the seventh, the Padres went ahead in the bottom of the inning. Hairston legged out a triple when his one-out flyball fell in just beyond the reach of center fielder Jose Cruz Jr. He scored on Tadahito Iguchi’s single to center off Oscar Villarreal (0-1).
Wolf was 9-6 with a 4.23 ERA for the Dodgers last year before shoulder soreness shut him down. He had surgery in September, when doctors cleaned out the joint and shaved his frayed labrum.
He held the Astros to one run and four hits in six innings, struck out five and walked two.
“It was fun to be out there, competing again and being healthy,” Wolf said.
Wolf left with a 2-1 lead, which reliever Enrique Gonzalez (1-0) gave up in the seventh. Cruz, San Diego’s opening-day left fielder last year, walked with one out and scored on catcher J.R. Towles’ double into the left-field corner.
Chacon also went six innings. He allowed two runs and five hits, struck out four and walked four.
“The first inning I was terrible,” Chacon said. “The second inning, I got a little out of whack. After that I settled down.”
San Diego’s Callix Crabbe made his big league debut, flying out to left while pinch-hitting for Gonzalez leading off the seventh. … After going 0-for-4 in Monday’s opener, Hairston had six hits in the next three games.