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Padres rout Dodgers in home opener

The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO -- Will Venable was looking for a fastball. Josh Beckett obliged.

"I just wanted to get something out over the plate and drive it," Venable said. "He threw a nice elevated pitch right down the middle and I put a pretty good swing on it."

Venable was in the swing of things all day for San Diego. He homered on the first pitch he saw from Beckett in the first inning for a solo home run and drilled a bases-loaded triple in the eighth as the Padres routed the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-3 in their home opener before a sellout-crowd of 44,436 at Petco Park on Tuesday.

Venable, who went 2-for-3, tied a career high with four RBIs. He also walked twice, one of them an intentional pass.

Catcher Nick Hundley also hit a solo home run for the Padres (2-5), who snapped a three-game skid and ended a three-game winning streak by the Dodgers (4-3). Returning home after a six-game road trip to open the season did wonders for San Diego.

"We're just excited to be home and to play the game the way we're supposed to play," Venable said.

A lack of offense was among the Padres' biggest headaches through six games. They entered the contest against the Dodgers batting .204 and ranked 27th out of 30 clubs in major league baseball. They also had only one homer in those six games.

"Will had a good game," Padres manager Bud Black said. "That was a great swing in the first inning off of Beckett and a good at-bat against (J.P. Howell)."

San Diego scored two runs in the first and one each in the fifth and seventh before erupting for five in the eighth. The Padres scored six of their nine runs with two outs.

"We have to do a better job, myself included, of when we get two outs," said Beckett, who gave up three runs on six hits in five innings. Beckett struck out four and walked one.

Black was pleased with his hitters' patience.

"We think we're capable of that moving forward," Black said. "We talk about stringing at-bats together. That was good. Good patience at the plate."

The Padres organization had seemingly lost patience with its big ballpark. Padres players had grumbled about it for years. So before the season started, the club decided to move in the fences about 10 feet in right, right-center and left-center.

Black believed the shorter fences have already played a role, mentioning a two-run homer by Juan Uribe in the fourth off Padres starter Clayton Richard as an example.

"Day games the ball carries a little bit better anyway," Black said. "I thought the wind was blowing to right. Uribe hit the ball decent, but I thought it was going to be a deep fly ball. But when it got up there ... it kept carrying. He hit it solid but, not to say it was wind-blown, but conditions might have had a little bit to do with something like that. It went to the right part of the park. It would have been an out last year."

Mark Kotsay's double to deep right-center, scoring Cameron Maybin, in the seventh gave San Diego a 4-3 lead. It never trailed again.

Hundley's homer in the fifth gave San Diego a 3-2 lead but the Dodgers rallied to tie the score again in the seventh when Carl Crawford scored on a single to left by Adrian Gonzalez.

"We just have to keep grinding it out," said Gonzalez, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI. "Our day will come. It's just a matter of taking what the pitcher gives you and continue working."

Reliever Luke Gregerson (1-0) got the victory, throwing two pitches and forcing Uribe to ground into a fielder's choice to end the seventh.

Richard gave up two runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked three before being relieved by Andrew Cashner in the sixth.

Ronald Belisario (0-1) suffered the loss.

Venable entered the game batting .133. But his solo shot off Beckett into the right-field bleachers gave San Diego a 1-0 lead with one out in the first.

Jedd Gyorko's RBI single to center scored Yonder Alonso, who doubled, to make it 2-0.

Gonzalez led off the fourth with a single before Uribe's two-run homer to right to tie the score.

NOTES: Greg Vaughn, the only Padre to hit 50 home runs, threw out the first pitch. ... The Padres honored the late Darrel Akerfelds, the club's former bullpen coach, by unveiling a plaque in the bullpen before the game. Akerfelds died last year from pancreatic cancer. ... Gonzalez entered the game hitting .875 against Richard. ... Matt Kemp had the third-highest batting average at Petco Park at .339 among active players entering the season. Lance Berkman and Ichiro Suzuki are first and second. ... Kotsay had hit safely in each of the past five games. He is hitting .600. ... Dodgers pitchers led the major leagues with a 1.00 ERA, a .154 opponents' batting average and a combined three shutouts entering the series. They had struck out 48 and walked eight in 54 innings. ... Tuesday's contest was the first of 19 between the Padres and Dodgers. The Padres visit L.A. for the first time April 15-17.
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