08/18/09 2:56 AM ET
On brink, Padres walk off behind Blanks
Slugger hits three-run shot with two outs in ninth inning
By Tim Powers / Special to MLB.com
Kyle Blanks hit a three-run homer in the ninth as the Padres beat the Cubs, 4-1, in the opener of a three-game set on Monday at PETCO Park.
The blast was the seventh of the season for the rookie Blanks, who deposited a 1-1 pitch from Cubs closer Kevin Gregg (4-5) into the left-center-field seats and set off a celebration at home plate as the club snapped a four-game losing streak.
"It's always nice to get a win, and to do it like that is definitely a nice little bit of momentum in your direction," Blanks said. "That always feels good, especially a good team win like that. We pitched well, played good defense, and hit when we needed to."
The Padres have also reeled off four straight wins against the Cubs at PETCO Park after sweeping a three-game set here in May, but the night belonged to the 6-foot-5, 22-year-old Blanks, who has made a strong impression since being called up to the Major Leagues on June 19.
"I think [Blanks] has got that in him, you know, the power," Padres manager Bud Black said. "The thing that I like about Kyle is the Minor League hitting for average is in there. At 22 years old, the power will show up, because he has that type of swing."
Blanks himself spoke of a sound approach despite a desperate situation.
"I tried to keep the same approach and just try to get a good pitch and just drive it, put a good swing on it," Blanks said. "If you can stay back and put a good swing on a pitch, good things happen."
Entering the ninth against Gregg, who suffered his sixth blown save of the season, David Eckstein drew a one-out walk and Adrian Gonzalez flied out before Chase Headley doubled to left-center, scoring Eckstein and tying the game at 1.
Gregg followed with an intentional walk to Kevin Kouzmanoff before Blanks stepped in, took two pitches and sent the 1-1 pitch soaring well above Headley's head to boost an offense that had been slowed all night, but posted six consecutive double-digit hit totals prior to Monday.
"It has been awesome," Headley said of the offense's upswing. "It's been a lot of fun, because a lot of different guys contribute. We're starting to get some confidence in some of the guys and realizing they can play here now. It's a lot of fun to play like that. To have other guys stepping up, it's really fun."
Heath Bell (5-2) worked a scoreless ninth to pick up the victory one night after blowing his second save and suffering the defeat.
The teams traded scoreless frames through the first seven innings before Mike Adams, who had not allowed a run in his past 11 1/3 innings and had gone 24 innings without surrendering an earned run, served up a triple to Derrek Lee followed by a single by Aramis Ramirez that put the Cubs ahead, 1-0.
"You look at the work Mike has done, and it hasn't gone unnoticed to us," Black said. "When you pitch in that role, a lot of times there is not that acclaim. If you go back to the work that Mike did last year, and what he has done this year since the surgery, it's very impressive."
Both starting pitchers turned in solid efforts but did not factor into the decision.
Kevin Correia tossed six scoreless innings while allowing three hits, striking out two and walking four batters.
"I was off, no doubt," Correia said. "I walked too many guys, but all in all, I worked through it again. It wasn't pretty, but it was good results."
Correia's best effort may have come against the last batter he faced, when he escaped a bases-loaded jam by inducing a flyout from Cubs second baseman Mike Fontenot that preserved the scoreless tie.
"That was critical," Black said. "[Correia] has shown a knack for that, getting out of some jams, in the last month or so. He didn't give in. He knew he needed the one out and he got it."
Black went on to praise Correia's growth this season and explain how that particular situation exemplified the 28-year-old's progress.
"We've seen the growth," Black said. "If you look at the big picture from Spring Training until now, you see a guy who is much improved and a guy who is really turning into someone we can count on."
Cubs starter Ted Lilly matched Correia's effort, surrendering four hits without allowing a run, and two relievers held San Diego hitless through the seventh and eighth innings to deliver a lead to Gregg.
Donavan Tate, the club's newly signed first-round pick (third overall) in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, was in attendance, sitting five rows behind home plate and taking in what the Padres hope is one of many games Tate is a part of at their home ballpark.
Tim Powers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.