San Diego Padres

Clutch Hitting and Strong Pitching Are Keys To First-Place Padres' Success

DENVER - APRIL 09:  Chase Headley #7 of the San Diego Padres takes an at bat against the Colorado Rockies during MLB action on Opening Day at Coors Field on April 9, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Padres 7-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Nathaniel UyFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2010

After last night’s rally and dramatic bottom of the ninth victory, the Padres (17-10) assured themselves of having another successful homestand.  Winners of six of their last eight games and 11-4 at home, the Padres continue to roll.

On the offensive side, the Padres are showing an ability to hit with runners in scoring position—they are second in the National League with a .293 team average.  After collecting their third walk-off win of the season, they are also proving that they have the ability to come through when the game is on the line.

Showing that he is a go-to-guy in the clutch, with two outs, Chase Headley, lined a 1-0 count single to the right-center gap, scoring Lance Zawadski from second base.  This was Headley’s second walk-off hit of the season; the other walk-off hit for the Padres was a home run by David Eckstein.

Aside from the timely hitting, strong pitching has also been a major reason for their early season success—with a 2.81 team ERA that ranks second in the NL. 

Last night’s starting pitcher, Wade LeBlanc, called up to replace the injured Chris Young in the rotation, allowed two earned runs over six innings, received a no-decision. 

In three other starts this season LeBlanc (2-0, 1.16) has only one earned run and has shown a lot of promise.  LeBlanc was the pitcher of record in two of the Padres’ Major League leading six shutouts.

Opening day starter and free-agent acquisition, Jon Garland (3-2, 2.06) has been a steady contributor.

Veteran Kevin Correia (4-2, 3.97) leads the team in wins and strikeouts with 30.

Second-year starter Clayton Richard (1-2, 3.00) is beginning to hit his stride. 

The only sore spot in the rotation has been 22-year-old Mat Latos (1-3, 5.47), who has given up a team-high seven home runs.  All-star Heath Bell (2-0, 1.64) anchors a strong bullpen with seven saves in eight chances. 

It is still too early to tell if the first-place Padres have what it takes to take the division. But the middle of May just might give a clue as whether or not the Padres are true contenders. 

After a three game series against the NL’s worst team, Houston Astros, they are scheduled to face NL West rivals Dodgers and Giants from May 11-20 with five games at home and five games on the road.

If they manage to come out with a winning record against the second-place Giants and are able to take advantage of the struggling Dodgers, who were early season favorites to win the division, then the Padres will most likely still be atop the division. 

And that may just be time to start taking the overachieving Padres seriously. 

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