Sunday, May 20, 2012

Richard's run

The Padres went deep into their playbook.

The Angels busted coverage.

Chalk up San Diego's wild victory that followed to the Wolverine Scramble.

Pitcher and former Michigan quarterback Clayton Richard, aided by a fielding error, ran from first to home in the 13th inning to give the Padres their first extra-inning victory this year, 3-2, today at Petco Park.

The Padres (16-26) won the three-game series, good for their first winning homestand.

For one savvy observer of multiple sports, the frantic last play recalled Richard's football days in leafy Ann Arbor.

"Michigan quarterback, sprinting," said Bud Black.

"Lloyd Carr," Black said next, referring to Richard's former football coach.

"I've got more Rick Leach than Tom Brady," Black, now on a roll, said in contrasting those two former Wolverines quarterbacks, the former an option quarterback, the latter the pocket-passing Super Bowl-regular-to-be.

Showing off, Black made a final crack about Richard's jaunt from first base to home:  "I've got more Tom Harmon than Tom Brady."

Harmon won the Heisman Trophy in 1940 by directing Michigan's single-wing offense, but Richard showed he's versatile, too, by lashing a two-out, pinch single to left field, running on a full-count pitch to Will Venable and scoring on Venable's single that was bobbled by Howie Kendrick for an error.

Richard, a lefty hitter and pitcher, was 0-for-16 with 10 strikeouts before he drilled a pitch from David Pauley, who began his career with the Padres.

Kendrick, a second baseman, moved to left in the 11th, after Ryan Langerhans injured his right shoulder when he banged the wall in pursuit of John Baker's double.

As Richard ran toward third, Kendrick booted the groundball in left-center, and Richard scored well ahead of the recovery and throw.

"Once you saw the bobble, you know you're going to have a chance," Black said.

Leading off in the first, Venable lined a single through the 5.5 hole. His two firm hits to the opposite field, neither off late swings, may be a sign that Venable now has a good stroke working for him, as may his .343 batting average with six extra-base hits in the last 12 games.

Yonder Alonso belted two doubles, his fifth multi-double game of the year, one short of the club record set by Tony Gwynn and shared by Adrian Gonzalez.

Six relievers combined to throw seven scoreless innings, allowing the Padres to outlast the more talented yet sputtering Angels, who have a .306 on-base percentage. 

Andrew Cashner broke the bat of Albert Pujols with a fastball clocked at 99 miles per hour, resulting in a weak groundout. 

Explain, if you can, Pujols's .211 batting average, .256 OBP and .311 slugging percentage after 42 games.

The game's most interesting tactical moves came in the 11th after Baker reached third with one out and the score 2-2.

Mike Scioscia stationed an Angels outfielder near second base, creating a softball look.

When Angels reliever David Carpenter fell behind Cameron Maybin, 3-0, Black gave Maybin the green light because he figured Carpenter would rather attack the cold-hitting Maybin than either of the next two hitters, Chase Headley and Alonso.

Black was right. 

Carpenter threw a fastball down the middle, belt high, clocked at 89 miles per hour.

Maybin fouled it off. 

"That was the best pitch to hit of the at-bat," Black said.

Black said he wasn't trying to untrack Maybin, whose batting average is .210. Maybin signed a $25-million contract in March, and the Padres should look for ways to get him going. Black showed confidence in him and put him in a better position to succeed. Black said he considered having Maybin bunt, too. He said Maybin's bunt for a popout on Saturday didn't dissuade him.

Unable to get to a 90-mph pitch inside, Maybin hit a foul ball for strike two before taking a called third strike.

Black chose Richard over Jeff Suppan to pinch-hit, and after belying his .000 batting average, Chad Henne's former backup showed how to win on a day when the offense was 1-for-13 with men in scoring position.

"Hey, Clayton was due," Black said.  "Just watching Clayton in batting practice, he has the ability to launch some balls -- and he's fast. He's one of our faster pitchers."

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