Gwynn relishes role in game-winning rally
Hairston's ninth-inning single drives in newest Padre
SAN DIEGO -- Had emotions gotten the best of Tony Gwynn Jr. on Thursday, he might not have been able to show such restraint at the plate when his new team needed him to do exactly that.
On any other night, in any other game and, say, if Gwynn wasn't playing his first game for the team he grew up rooting for, following his father, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, to work, emotions might have gotten the best of the newest Padre.
"It still hasn't really kicked in yet -- my nerves were actually pretty good," Gwynn said.
He might have been the only one, as the Padres rallied for their sixth consecutive victory with a 3-2 victory over the Giants at PETCO Park with two runs in the ninth inning as the game-winning run scored on Scott Hairston's two-out RBI single.
The player who scored the winning run? None other than Gwynn, who started his day in Portland as a member of the Nashville Sounds, the Milwaukee Brewers' Triple-A affiliate and ended it an unlikely hero in Thursday's victory.
"I'm pretty tired," Gwynn admitted afterwards.
Gwynn's walk in the ninth inning against hard-throwing Giants closer Brian Wilson was a pivotal at-bat in the comeback by the Padres (19-22), who inch closer to .500 all while looking nothing like the team that recently lost six consecutive games.
After closer Heath Bell allowed his first run of the season in the top of the ninth inning, Kevin Kouzmanoff reached base to start the inning by topping a ball for an infield single. After a Nick Hundley sacrifice, Gwynn was called upon to pinch-hit.
After taking a called strike, Gwynn laid off some nasty pitches by Wilson, taking four consecutive balls and, subsequently, taking his base.
"He laid off some borderline pitches away. That was great to see," Padres manager Bud Black said of Gwynn, who flew Thursday afternoon from Portland to San Diego and got to the stadium nine minutes before the start of the game.
Said Gwynn: "I was able to calm my nerves and have a good at-bat.
After Wilson recovered to strike out pinch-hitter Edgar Gonzalez, Brian Giles reached on a walk to load the bases. Wilson then plunked David Eckstein with a pitch to force in the tying run. That set the stage for Hairston, who jumped on a slider up, lining it into left field for the game winner.
Hairston's hit, which marked San Diego's fifth walk-off victory of the season, gave the Padres their second three-game sweep of the week after recently dispatching the Reds as well.
It's been pitching that has carried the Padres recently. The run Bell allowed in the ninth inning snapped a stretch of 22 scoreless innings from the bullpen dating back to May 14 in Chicago.
Better still, the Padres' starting pitching has been exceptional recently. Kevin Correia, the ex-Giant, got a start against his former team Thursday and allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings, needing just 81 pitches to get one out into the seventh inning.
Correia has allowed six earned runs over his last three starts spanning 19 1/3 innings as he continues to show signs of improved mechanics, something on which he has worked hard with pitching coach Darren Balsley. The key is a slower, more deliberate and controlled delivery.
"It's still feeling good; I was really efficient with my pitches," Correia said. "Overall, I thought I made some pretty good pitches."
As did Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum, who allowed one run in seven innings on four hits. The reigning Cy Young Award winner struck out 10 and walked one.
Lincecum was long gone by the time the Padres pieced together an unlikely rally in the ninth inning, scoring two runs on two walks, one hit batter and two hits, one that never managed to leave the infield.
About the only thing that would have made the night better would have been if Gwynn had stroked the game-winning hit himself in his first game with the Padres. But, to be sure, his father would have been proud if he was in town Thursday.
"I'm sure he would have liked to see me punch one through the five-hole," said the left-handed-hitting Gwynn of the same spot between shortstop and third base where his dad made a living during his 20-year Major League career.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.