By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SAN DIEGO — A true tribute to the late Tony Gwynn would been a game loaded with line drives by the San Diego Padres against one of the game’s best pitchers. This was far from that, Wednesday night, but it was enough.
San Diego nicked Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez for one run before pushing across the game-winner in the eighth inning against Charlie Furbush for a 2-1 victory in their first game at Petco Park since Gwynn’s death.
Tommy Medica delivered the tie-breaking run with a pinch RBI single.
“Slider,” Furbush said. “It was down. He just hit it.”
The Padres honored Gwynn, the greatest player in their history, in a moving pre-game ceremony. He died Monday, at 54, from salivary gland cancer.
Then they had to face Hernandez, who had never lost in six previous career starts at Petco, going 5-0 with a 1.54 ERA. And he was, pretty much, that guy.
“That was dirty … dirty,” Padres third baseman Chase Headley said. “Best breaking ball I’ve ever seen. I’ve never had much success against him, but I wasn’t going to have success tonight.”
Hernandez gave up one tainted run and three hits in seven innings while striking out 10 and walking none — and settled for a no-decision.
“That was a tough loss for us,” he said. “I threw a lot of strikes and didn’t miss a lot of pitches.”
San Diego starter Andrew Cashner was nearly as good. He yielded just one run in seven innings before handing a 1-1 game to reliever Joaquin Benoit. Cashner lowered his ERA to 2.36, which stands in contrast to his 2-6 record.
After Benoit breezed through the eighth with two strikeouts, Everth Cabrera opened the bottom of the inning against Furbush (0-4) with an infield single on a high chop that died between the pitcher and third base.
Furbush started after the ball, but veered away when third baseman Kyle Seager called him off.
“Charlie could have caught it,” Seager said, “but he’s running away from first base. That’s asking a whole lot to ask someone to catch it while they’re running away and spin and throw out a guy.”
Cabrera went to second on Alexi Amarista’s sacrifice. Medica batted for Benoit (3-0) and lined a sinking single into center. Cabrera scored easily, and Medica took second on the throw.
“Charlie made a great pitch,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “(Medica) just happened to get enough bat on it to get it into center field.”
The Padres won for just the second time in 10 games when Huston Street pitched a scoreless ninth for his 19th save. The Mariners lost for the first time in four games and dropped to 37-35.
The Mariners opened the scoring after Mike Zunino was hit by a pitch with one out in the second inning. Singles by Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller produced the run.
It was still 1-0 when Logan Morrison started the sixth inning with a double through the infield’s right side. A passed ball moved him to third with no outs, but the threat came to nothing.
Morrison held third on Zunino’s fly to short center. The Padres shortened their infield with one out and got what they wanted when Ackley hit a sharp grounder to second.
That prompted an intentional walk to Miller, which brought Hernandez to the plate. Hernandez hit a dribbler to the left side that Cashner turned into the final out.
“That was probably the ballgame,” McClendon said. “(Score there, and) that gives us a little bit of a cushion against a team that has been struggling to score runs.”
The missed chance bit back hard later in the inning.
Hernandez retired 15 straight after Seth Smith’s leadoff single in the San Diego first. The streak ended when Amarista beat out an infield single to start the sixth.
Miller made a diving stop, but his throw pulled Morrison off first. Amarista moved to second on Cashner’s sacrifice, and to third on Smith’s grounder to second.
A wild pitch scored the tying run.
“That was bad,” Hernandez said. “That was a change-up, and I threw it too hard.”
Zunino blocked the ball, but it caromed far enough away to permit Amarista to score.
“Sometimes, it’s tough with change-ups,” Zunino said. “With breaking balls, you know they’re going to bounce back the opposite way with the spin.
“With a change-up, you just have to beat it to the spot. I thought I got there, but it was just a little off my right side.”