Padres 2, Pirates 1
SAN DIEGO (AP)—It was vintage Trevor Hoffman, from the AC/DC blaring from the stadium speakers to a final, nasty changeup dropping toward the dirt and eluding the swing of a helpless batter.
Hoffman never veers from his routines or his signature pitch, and on Saturday night he tied Lee Smith’s career saves record with No. 478, helping the NL West-leading San Diego Padres beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 to build a 1 1/2 -game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As he has for weeks, Hoffman said the Padres’ playoff push is more important that his record pursuit.
“I know I’ll be more relieved when we clinch a playoff spot,” Hoffman said after pitching a perfect ninth for his NL-best 42nd save in 47 chances. “And I truly mean that. I’m not trying to deflect the attention from what’s going on, and there’s a lot of pressure involved in a pennant drive and preserving wins, let alone what it means to a major league record.”
The 38-year-old closer has never been comfortable talking about himself, so it’s been easier on him with the Padres trying to make consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in club history.
“It could be extremely lonely, in a sense, to go through this process with a team that wouldn’t be in it and have all the attention on something that’s very individualized,” he said.
With the sellout crowd of 43,168 on its feet, Hoffman jogged in from the bullpen, staring at the ground the whole way, with AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” blaring, as it has for each of his home save opportunities since July 25, 1998.
“It was nasty,” catcher Rob Bowen said. “It looked like it stopped, then started again after he swung. It just dropped off the table.”
Said Hoffman: “I’ll get an out any way I can, as long as they don’t put it in play and score a run.”
The 38-year-old Hoffman has three saves in five games following his blown save in Monday night’s wild, 11-10 loss in 10 innings at Los Angeles.
Smith piled up 478 saves from 1980-1997.
All but two of Hoffman’s saves have come with San Diego, which obtained him from Florida on June 24, 1993, in a five-player deal that sent Gary Sheffield to the Marlins.
“I feel sorry for teams who don’t have what we have,” Peavy said about Hoffman.
“It’s special,” said Bruce Bochy, San Diego’s manager since 1995. “We’re seeing history. I can’t say enough about what he’s done for our ballclub, our organization. He’s a guy I’ve been fortunate to have as my closer since I’ve been manager.”
Pittsburgh’s Jim Tracy was Hoffman’s manager in the minor leagues when he was converted from infielder to reliever.
“It suggests consistency, it suggests resiliency,” Tracy said. “That’s how you get to the point where he’s at.”
Tracy was manager of the rival Dodgers the last five seasons.
“I learned to hate the song ‘Hells Bells,” Tracy said. “I only listen to it when I’m in San Diego.”
San Diego has won eight of 11 overall and 13 of its last 15 home games.
Barfield gave San Diego a 2-1 lead when he homered to left on a 2-2 pitch from Zach Duke (10-14) in the seventh. It was the 13th of the season for Barfield, the son of former AL home run champ Jesse Barfield.
Peavy (10-14) held Pittsburgh to one run and six hits in eight innings, walking one. He reached double digits in Ks for the 15th time in his career to tie the franchise mark held by Andy Benes. It was the fifth time this season Peavy has struck out at least 10.
A night after Chris Young came within two outs of San Diego’s first no-hitter, the Pirates took a quick lead against Peavy.
Duke allowed two runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings, walked five and struck out four.
Pinch-hitter Joe Randa was booed when he was announced leading off the eighth. Randa’s pinch-hit, two-run homer with one out in the ninth on Friday night broke up Young’s no-hitter.
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