The Houston Astros entered the ninth inning in Wednesday’s game as they did in Tuesday’s game. Trailing the Padres 6-5, they again had to face closer Trevor Hoffman, but this time there was a different result.
After Hoffman got Ty Wigginton to ground out and J.R. Towles to fly out, Jose Cruz Jr. walked while pinch-hitting for Tomas Perez. Michael Bourn followed with a single to right, which moved Cruz to second.
Hunter Pence drove in Cruz with a single to right, resulting in a blown save for Hoffman. Lance Berkman delivered the crushing blow with a three-run home run to center, which put the Astros in the lead 9-6.
Dating back to last season, Hoffman (0-1) has blown three out of four save opportunities. Hoffman was pulled after giving up a home run to Berkman. Hoffman said it's part of the game and this time the Padres were on the wrong end of it tonight.
"We had done a good job of shutting them down for almost three games, but they exploded for four runs in the ninth," Hoffman said.
Berkman said he was able to notice Hoffman’s release point more in Wednesday’s game than Tuesday’s.
"He gave me a fastball that I could hit 3-1 and I'm glad I swung at it," Berkman said. Berkman went 3-for-5 in the game with a home run; three runs batted in, scored three runs and a stolen base.
Padres manager Bud Black was very complimentary of Berkman after the game.
“He's a good hitter and good hitters do those things," Black said.
The Astros new closer Jose Valverde (1-0) got the win, pitching in the eighth and ninth innings. Valverde allowed three hits, one run and struck out two. The Astros traded for Valverde from Arizona on December 14 for Chad Qualls, Chris Burke and Juan Gutierrez.
Houston’s Manager Cecil Cooper said the Astros’ bats finally woke up.
"We got some big, big, big hits," Cooper said.
After both teams combined to score seven runs in the first two games, the offense definitely came alive in Wednesday’s game.
The Astros started the scoring in the first inning when Berkman scored on Kevin Kouzmanoff’s throwing error that allowed Carlos Lee to safely reach first.
In the second inning, Geoff Blum, who got the start at second base hit a home run to right field to put the Astros ahead 2-0. Wigginton followed with a home run to left to make it 3-0.
The Padres cut into the deficit in their half of the second.
Scott Hairston hit his second home run of the season to left field to cut the lead to two. Brian Giles drove in Michael Barrett with a single to center to make it 3-2. Adrian Gonzalez gave the Padres the lead in the third with a two-run home run to right, also driving in Kouzmanoff.
In the sixth inning, Lee tied the game with a solo home run to center. Giles gave the Padres the lead in the bottom of the inning with a single to left, scoring Barrett.
Miguel Tejada tied the game in the eighth with a sacrifice fly, scoring Berkman. Giles gave the Padres their last lead of the night with a sacrifice fly, scoring Barrett.
Wandy Rodriguez started for the Astros and pitched five innings, allowing eight hits, four runs, walking one and striking out six. Dave Borkowski pitched the sixth and allowed four hits and a run. Geoff Geary pitched the seventh and struck out two.
Greg Maddux started for the Padres and pitched six innings, allowing six hits, four runs (three earned), and striking out three. Joe Thatcher pitched the seventh, allowing two hits, one run and striking out two. Cla Meredith pitched the eighth, and blew the save opportunity.
The Astros (1-2) close out the series with the Padres (2-1) Thursday at 2:35 CST. Shawn Chacon will be the starter for Houston against the Padres’ Randy Wolf.