Gonzalez’s solo homer started a three-run rally in the eighth inning and Bell got in and out of trouble in the ninth as the Padres beat Los Angeles 4-3 to salvage a split of a four-game series against the defending NL West champion Dodgers.
“The NL West has to realize that the Padres, we might not be the biggest names, or you might not know who we are, but we came to play and we’re going to battle you all nine innings, every single day,” Bell said.
Coming off a 99-loss season, the Padres are relatively young and, in some cases, downright anonymous.
But that didn’t stop them from rallying against a team that Bell said is the best in the NL so far.
“We’ve got a lot of energy,” said Gonzalez, San Diego’s only All-Star last year. “We’re a young team, and usually young teams feed off energy. Everybody’s confident. We know what we’re doing. We’re not intimidated by anybody and we really feel like we can compete in this division and we know we can win here. Nobody’s surprised that we won today.”
Said Dodgers manager Joe Torre: “They certainly earned it. They certainly had to go through fire to get that game shut down. You have to give Bell a lot of credit.”
The Dodgers had been working on a combined three-hitter before Gonzalez’s one-out homer off the facade of the second deck in left-center against Will Ohman pulled San Diego to 3-2. It was Gonzalez’s first.
Cory Wade (0-1) relieved Ohman and retired Chase Headley for the second out before Gonzalez’s older brother, Edgar, hit his first big league triple, into the gap in left-center. Gonzalez scored the tying run on Nick Hundley’s single, and Hundley scored the go-ahead run when Luis Rodriguez doubled to right-center.
After starting the season with 11 1-3 scoreless innings, the Dodgers’ bullpen was the last in the big leagues to surrender runs.
“You’re four outs away from winning the ballgame,” Torre said. “I’ll take my chances with those same guys on the mound, the same situation, the rest of the year.”
Cla Meredith (1-0) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win. Bell got out of trouble in the ninth for his second save in as many chances.
Bell allowed Orlando Hudson’s leadoff triple off the fence in the gap in right-center, then retired Manny Ramirez on a grounder to shortstop. Bell then walked Andre Ethier before getting Russell Martin to hit into a game-ending double play.
Ramirez went 0-for-3 with two walks.
Bell, the successor to all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, had to work a lot harder than he did in getting his first save on Tuesday night.
After Hudson’s triple, Bell thought, “I’ve got to strike the next two out.”
He didn’t, but he jammed Ramirez, breaking the slugger’s bat as he grounded out weakly.
“That was huge for me,” Bell said. “I knew I had to strike out Manny Ramirez right there, and that was the second-best thing. I wasn’t thinking about a weak ground ball right there, I was going for punchie every single pitch from the first pitch on. I couldn’t give in to him. I didn’t want to walk him because a double play wouldn’t have mattered right there, so I had to get Manny out. And to break his bat right there like it did was pretty cool.”
Bell got Martin to hit into a double play on a sinker.
“I didn’t want Martin just to pop the ball in right field like he did in a couple of situations,” Bell said. “I was trying to keep it real low and sink it. I figured he was a good guy to double up right there.”
Said Torre: “Especially with who we had coming up, you’re not thinking about tying it, you’re thinking about winning it.”
With the game tied at 1 in the sixth and runners on second and third, L.A.’s Matt Kemp hit a hard one-hopper that ate up third baseman Edgar Gonzalez, who was making a spot start in place of Kevin Kouzmanoff. The ball deflected off Gonzalez’s glove and into shallow left-center, allowing Ethier and Martin to score.
Ethier and Martin were aboard on consecutive one-out singles.
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw held the Padres to one run and two hits in five innings while striking out six and walking four.
Kevin Correia made his debut with San Diego, allowing three runs and five hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked four.
Correia had a shaky third inning, loading the bases on a single and two walks before walking Ethier with two outs to force in the Dodgers’ first run.
The Padres finally broke through against the lefty Kershaw in the fifth inning. David Eckstein, who doubled for San Diego’s first hit in the third, singled to bring in Luis Rodriguez. Rodriguez was aboard on the second of his three walks.
San Diego was 5-83 when trailing after seven innings last year. … With L.A.’s Rafael Furcal getting the day off, Blake DeWitt made his first professional appearance at SS. DeWitt was drafted as a SS in 2004 but was immediately switched to 3B. DeWitt did appear at SS in 10 spring training games, playing 47 innings.