CINCINNATI (AP)—The San Diego Padres finally made a dent in their daunting number.
Not once all season had they rallied to win a game when they trailed after eight innings. Something bad always seemed to happen, leaving them 0-53 when they went to that last at-bat without the lead.
In one amazing inning, they finally pulled one out.
Kevin Kouzmanoff’s two-run double completed a comeback off closer Francisco Cordero in the top of the ninth on Monday night, and Trevor Hoffman escaped a bases-loaded threat in the bottom of the inning for a 6-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The breakthrough win ended San Diego’s six-game losing streak and gave them something to savor.
“Just to come away with a win is the big thing,” Hoffman said. “It doesn’t matter how it happens.”
This one happened rather unexpectedly.
Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 606th homer, a two-run shot that allowed the Reds to take a 4-3 lead into the ninth. Cordero (4-3) then gave up a lead for the second time in his last three appearances, retiring only two of seven batters.
“Hitters and fielders go through tough times, and I am, too, right now,” said Cordero, who threw 40 pitches and walked three, one intentionally. “I’ve got to do better than that. That’s not my style. That’s not me.”
“He’s got a good slider,” said Kouzmanoff, who latched onto one for the winning hit. “He throws it down in the strike zone. The biggest thing is to (wait to) see it up.”
Clay Hensley (1-0) pitched two hitless innings for the win. Hoffman then provided more of the drama that the Padres often see in the late innings.
Cincinnati loaded the bases with no outs. Hoffman threw a high fastball past David Ross for a third strike, then retired pinch-hitter Javier Valentin on a foul pop. Finally, he went with his darting changeup against Bruce, a rookie who had never faced him.
“It helps to have someone who hasn’t seen it,” Hoffman said. “In that situation, you’re going to go with your best pitch.”
Bruce struck out on a 73 mph pitch, giving Hoffman his 18th save in 21 chances.
“I think experience was on our side,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “A guy with 542 major league saves, he’s been in situations like that. He still knows how to get three outs before the opposition scores two runs.”
Until Cordero failed for the sixth time in 26 save chances, the Reds were in position to win because of Griffey’s homer and another solid start by 22-year-old Homer Bailey.
Griffey snapped a 2-all tie in the sixth with a two-run homer off Josh Banks, who learned the hard way that a marginal mistake can turn into a home run at Great American Ball Park. Edwin Encarnacion had a solo shot off Banks, who had never pitched at the homer-prone park.
Griffey’s 13th homer of the season left him three behind Sammy Sosa for fifth place on the career list.
Bailey gave up Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI double and Kouzmanoff’s sacrifice fly during a 25-pitch first inning, then settled down. The Padres didn’t score again until Scott Hairston hit a solo homer off Bailey in the seventh.
Pinch-hitter Chase Headley took a called third strike from David Weathers with a runner on third base, ending the Padres’ eighth inning in customary fashion—not quite enough to pull off the comeback. An inning later, they finally did it.
The Padres stranded five runners in scoring position in the first eight innings. They loaded the bases with one out in the fifth and failed to score.
Bruce had a run-scoring double that tied it at 2 in the third and extended his hitting streak to 10 games, the longest of his rookie season.
Padres SS Khalil Greene was back in the starting lineup after missing a game because of tightness in his lower back. … RHP Brett Tomko threw in the bullpen on Monday. Tomko has been sidelined all month by a sore elbow. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow and determine his fate, whether he throws another bullpen or a simulated game,” Black said. … Padres LHP Shawn Estes expects to have the splint removed from his broken left thumb on Friday. He could begin throwing again a few days later. … Banks is the 388th pitcher Griffey has homered off.