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SD@PHI: Denorfia steals home on Lee's pickoff throw

PHILADELPHIA -- The most daring, and quite possibly the most important, play from the Padres' 5-4 victory over the Phillies on Monday was, oddly enough, hatched from just the slightest moment of hesitation on the part of outfielder Chris Denorfia.

Denorfia was standing at third base, with teammate Jason Bartlett on first, when San Diego third-base coach Glenn Hoffman slowly walked up and whispered to him that if Philadelphia pitcher Cliff Lee threw the ball to first, Denorfia might be able to steal home, with third baseman Michael Martinez playing off the bag.

"I didn't know if he was joking or not," Denorfia said.

Hoffman's response: "He always thinks I'm joking."

The joke, as it turned out, was on Lee and the Phillies, as Denorfia darted for home as Lee nonchalantly tossed the ball over to first base, executing the Padres' first straight steal of home since 1999.

"It's making something happen when we needed something to happen," said San Diego third baseman Chase Headley.

The Padres, after dropping the first three games of the series, certainly needed it, though they looked comfortable roughing up Lee while also putting a halt to their 10-game losing skid against the Phillies (64-37) before a sold-out crowd of 45,640 at Citizens Bank Park

Denorfia's steal of home came during a four-run second inning when the Padres (45-58) parlayed four hits and a walk into a momentous frame against Lee (9-7), an outing that eerily resembled a game from May 21 of last season, when San Diego scored seven runs on 11 hits off Lee while he was with the Mariners.

"We came out swinging. We knew we had a challenge with one of the best pitchers in the game. We did some nice things; we got some big hits ... ran the bases aggressively," said Padres manager Bud Black. "We tried to keep Lee from settling in."

That certainly worked. Rob Johnson had an RBI double in the inning. Denorfia singled in a run to give the Padres a 2-1 lead. After Denorfia stole home to make it 3-1, Headley doubled in a run, one of his three hits in the game.

"They were hitting him pretty good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "It looked like he was throwing the ball hard. It looked like he was having some problems with command. His stuff was good, though.

"It was just one of those days. He's human."

San Diego pitcher Aaron Harang (9-2) allowed a run in the first inning and then two more in the fourth inning, due in part to a play that saw Denorfia collide with Ryan Ludwick in right-center field on Domonic Brown's RBI triple.

Denorfia stayed in the game but Ludwick left later, saying afterward that he felt "woozy."

The Phillies cut the lead to 5-4 in the sixth inning on Raul Ibanez's single, and from there, the game belonged to the bullpens. All told, Harang allowed four runs on eight hits over six innings.

John Mayberry Jr. reached on a pinch-hit single to open the seventh inning against Chad Qualls, who two days earlier allowed five runs in one inning to the Phillies. Mayberry Jr. was erased on the bases when Jimmy Rollins reached on a fielder's choice.

Then, in what marked another pivotal play, the speedy Rollins was cut down while attempting to steal second base as Johnson's throw was on time, and Bartlett blocked Rollins with his foot, preventing him from reaching out and touching the bag.

"I love the way that he receives the ball down there," Johnson said, smiling.

Mike Adams struck out Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on six pitches in the eighth inning before Shane Victorino tripled to right-center. But Adams got Ibanez to ground out to end the inning.

Then, in the ninth inning, All-Star closer Heath Bell allowed a leadoff walk to Brown but got the next three hitters he faced for his 29th save of the season.

There were, without a doubt, several significant moments from Monday's victory -- which secured a 4-3 road trip for San Diego -- that stood out, although none left a bigger impression than Denorfia's bold steal of home.

"That's the type of play that will frustrate a pitcher and get him out of his rhythm. But that's Deeno's [kind of] play," Harang said. "That kind of got guys pumped up."

Including Denorfia himself, who on Sunday took a two-run home run away from Ibanez with an over-the-fence catch, one his parents, who drove four hours from their home in Connecticut, got to see.

Then, on Monday, Denorfia stole a game with his feet and his instincts.

"I just love playing the game," Denorfia said. "I love coming to the ballpark every day. I hope my play shows that." Comments