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Rockies-Padres: Wacky, Wild NL West Baseball in Beautiful Petco Park

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IJuly 19, 2009

The Colorado Rockies (49-41) came into tonight’s game looking for a fourth straight win, and third in a row against the San Diego Padres. Colorado started the night tied with the division rival San Francisco Giants for first in the wild card race in the NL.

The Padres (36-54) sent out Kevin Correia to pitch, who brought a 6-7 record with a 4.50 ERA. Though, since Jake Peavy went down, Correia has picked up his play with a 4-3 record and a 3.57 ERA.

Correia’s command was in doubt from the beginning, as he walked the first batter of the game in Dexter Fowler, and then almost threw two straight pick-off attempts into the stands. Then, after getting Clint Barmes to fly out, and Todd Helton to ground out, Brad Hawpe smashed a ball off the wall in left center at 400 feet.

Just like that, the Rockies hopped to a quick start, and found themselves in a familiar place—leading against the Padres 1-0.

The Rockies' starter tonight was Jason Hammel, who at 5-4 with a 4.43 ERA is deceiving as he has gone 4-1 since the start of June, and has posted a 1.97 ERA on the road this season, second best in the NL. Hammel looked to keep that ERA down, as no one on San Diego hits .300, with Tony Gwynn Jr. the Padres’ leader at .299.

For Hammel and the Rockies, it was a wacky first inning.

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Hammel indeed came out on fire. His location was spot on, pitching exactly where Yorvitt Torrealba wanted him to, and his curveball had great bite.

But that’s not to say there wasn’t a scare early, as after striking out the first two batters, he walked one, allowed a hit, and hit a batter to load the bases. Then Hammel walked home a run on four straight pitches.

Lastly, Hammel through a ball in the dirt that would have scored another run, but was luckily swung on and missed. The game was tied 1-1 after one.

Both pitchers settled into the game nicely though. Correia retired seven batters in a row at one point, until he walked Helton in the fourth.

Correia started wavering, though, as he walked Hawpe as well, but ended up getting out unscathed. Correia finished the game with six innings pitched, only three hits, but four walks.

Hammel threw a good game, with five-and-two-thirds innings pitched, giving up five hits and striking out seven. But he was eventually pulled in the bottom of the sixth, after hitting a batter in the head with a fastball, then walking the next two.

Rincon came in, walked one himself to load the bases, but saved the Rockies with a spectacular grab off of Tony Gwynn Jr.’s bat.

Things went downhill for the Rockies as they went deeper into the bullpen. Chase Headly had a pinch hit homerun in the bottom of the seventh off Jose Peralta to give the Padres a 2-1 lead, followed by a double by Kevin Kouzmanoff, who ultimately scored to give San Diego a 3-1 lead.

All came down to the ninth inning for the Rockies, as they were down two and had Helton and Hawpe up. After Helton fought his way to a hit, Hawpe followed by grounding into a double play.

Troy Tulowitzki finished the game for the Rockies as he swung at some high cheese that made him look silly and the game was over.

The Rockies, now 49-42, look to end this series on a good note, as tomorrow is get-away day for Colorado. The Rockies and Padres play Sunday at 2:05 PM MST.

Something that I found very interesting about this series so far though is the Padres’ home, Petco Park.

Petco is wonderfully done, with lots of little quirks that make it its own. From home plate there is a great view of down town San Diego, there is a huge sandbox in left center field, and in straight away center, a wiffleball field.

There is only one bullpen, the one for the Padres in right center field. The visitors have a warm-up mound down the first base line, and I’ve heard a rumor they actually forgot to build the visitor’s pen.

Another quirk is the trapezoid outcropping of seats into right field, which creates multiple corners and could cause problems for fielders.

The most interesting and intriguing part of Petco is the building that has been incorporated into the park. The Western Metal Supply Co. building was adopted by the historical society, and when builders of the park learned they could not tear it down, it was included in Petco.

The building is beautiful, with seats on four stories, including some on the roof. The coolest part is how Petco’s left field foul pole is done, as it is simply painted on the corner of the building.

Overall, I love baseball for the beauty of the game, but also the beauty of the ballparks—and both were on display Saturday night.