06 April 2008

Journey to Petco

Petco Park feels more like a part of its city than either Dodger Stadium and AT&T field, the only other two major league ballparks I've been to. The tall downtown buildings behind the outfield wall feel so close, as if they're leaning in to watch the game. There's a lot of work being done in this area of San Diego --- we counted three cranes beyond the outfield walls!

The drawback of this location is that getting away from Petco after the game by car is almost impossible. Dodger Stadium may have a bad reputation but Petco is far worse, since to get to a major freeway you have to wade through the relatively narrow gridlocked downtown streets. It appears that Petco gives fans some good public transportation options, at least, but that was no help to us.

I have no doubt now that the overwhelming favorite player of most Padres fans is Jake Peavy. He received by a wide margin the loudest cheers upon introduction of the starting lineup. The crowd was on its feet cheering for a strikeout with two strikes in the first inning. The biggest roar of all occured when Peavy came out to start the ninth inning. It reminded me, a little bit, of being at the Lima playoff game. The situations were so different, and the ability of the pitchers so different, but the excitement and anticipation of the fans was the same.

Peavy was great early, and good until the end, but he wasn't overpowering until the end. The Dodgers hit the ball hard and reached three-ball counts with some regularity later in the game, but nothing ever came together for them. The hard hit balls were swallowed by the defense; the three ball counts were usually overcome by Peavy.

Penny was awful early. After his initial strikeout everything in the first inning was hit hard, all the way to the final hard fly-out by Peavy at which the crowd roared as if it might be a home run. After that inning Penny was better, but never really good, and yet the Padres couldn't score any more off of him. I came away from the game being very impressed by Peavy and not very impressed by the Padres offense, which feasted off Penny when he was terrible and then let him off the hook when he was merely average.

I had fun at the Saturday game, even though it seemed hopeless after just one inning. There were reasons to cheer a few times in the game, and for a moment the ninth inning seemed to have promise before the devil popped up and Martin snuffed the chance with a grounder double play. There were a lot of Dodger fans in attendance, and we even had a "Let's go Dodgers" chant going briefly after Loney doubled. Peavy looked shaky at that moment, but it was a mirage. Peavy is the real deal, and the Dodger fans who voted that Penny is a better pitcher than Peavy in one of those silly cell phone polls in today's game telecast are fooling themselves.

After this weekend I have to say the Padres look very much like a one man team. Young is good, but remains a question mark due to his road work, injury history, and high pitch counts. The rest of the starting pitchers are okay but may not be good enough to carry the at-best average offense. The bullpen looks awful early, and though they will improve you have to wonder if Hoffman might not be done as an elite reliever. Was any Dodger fan all that worried when he came in today in a tie game? I was, truly honestly, expecting the Dodgers to score off of him. And the outfield defense of the Padres is terrible. I was appalled ( and delighted ) when neither of the center or left fielders could cut off the ball that went for Furcal's triple. Loney's double could have been caught too by a better center fielder ( say, Mike Cameron ). So yeah, the Padres don't look all that impressive to me. Except when Peavy starts. Then they're a freaking juggernaut.

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