Astacio ready to take the stage
Padres' Game 2 starter shrugs off pressure of big start
ST. LOUIS -- It may be a reflection of the Padres' 82-80 season that a pitcher who was released earlier this season by the Texas Rangers now stands between them and oblivion in their National League Division Series against the Cardinals.But with Jake Peavy's cracked rib putting him in question for the remainder of the postseason and former Cardinals pitcher Woody Williams starting Game 3 on Saturday night in San Diego, the Padres are hoping that they catch lightning again in a Dominican bottle when Pedro Astacio faces Mark Mulder in Game 2 on Thursday at 1 p.m. PT in Busch Stadium. The Padres trail the defending NL champions, 1-0, in the best-of-five series and can ill afford to head back to PETCO Park for Saturday's Game 3 facing a quick elimination. "You've got to try a few things and get lucky," said Sandy Alderson, the team's chief executive. "You run someone out there and see what they have left." Lucky, indeed. Texas released the 35-year-old right-hander on June 21 with a 2-8 record and 6.04 ERA to show for his 12 starts. And wouldn't you know it, a little more than three months later, Astacio was on the mound last Wednesday night at PETCO with the opportunity of helping the Padres clinch only their fourth NL West title in the club's 37-year history. He pitched into the seventh inning, allowing just one run on seven hits and earned the victory as the Padres vanquished the Giants, 9-1. Astacio finished 4-2 with a 3.17 ERA in his 12 appearances (10 starts). "He pitched a lot of big games for us," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. None may be bigger in Astacio's career than the responsibility he has on Thursday, a responsibility he's happily accepting. "Well, first of all, I was looking forward to getting the opportunity to go and pitch every five days and see what I was able to do," Astacio said. "And I did a good job for them. They're confident and they give me the chance, like [Thursday], to go ahead and pitch in an important game for San Diego." Astacio has been to the postseason before. As a youngster with the Dodgers, he made four relief appearances in the first round of the 1995 and 1996 playoffs, allowing no runs and a hit, while striking out six. His career has taken several turns since then, as well as the value of his stock. He's been to Colorado, Houston, the New York Mets, Boston and Texas before signing a Minor League contact with the Padres on June 30.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.