SAN DIEGO – For one day at least, the moderate-payroll San Diego Padres are in first place in the NL West, ahead of the big-spending Los Angeles Dodgers.
Seth Smith hit a towering drive for a tying homer leading off the eighth and Chris Denorfia singled home two runs to give the Padres a 3-1 victory against the rival Dodgers in baseball’s North American opener Sunday night.
Smith’s first hit with the Padres came on a 2-0 pitch from Brian Wilson, who started the eighth after Ryu Hyun-jin threw seven scoreless innings. It sailed an estimated 360 feet into the right-field seats. It was his seventh career pinch-hit homer. He was acquired in an offseason trade with Oakland for reliever Luke Gregerson.
Wilson (0-1) walked pinch hitter Yasmani Grandal, who advanced when the veteran reliever couldn’t handle Everth Cabrera’s bunt for an error. Grandal stole third and Cabrera took second on indifference before Denorfia hit a bouncer up the middle to bring them both in.
“They’re all just one game, but when you’re facing a team like the Dodgers, full of great players, Brian Wilson, a guy who knows how to get it done in those situations, it’s not easy to do what our hitters did,” said Huston Street, who pitched a perfect ninth for the save.
“To come back and get three right there in that situation, especially after leaving guys on base early, that’s what this team is going to have to do to win. We’re going to have to battle all year long.”
The Dodgers set a record with an opening-day payroll of $234 million. The Padres are 23rd at just under $90 million.
Street said he has no problem with the discrepancy.
“They’ve got a lot of talent and their talent has earned those salaries,” Street said.
“They’re not just given. At the same time, a lot of guys in this locker room are young guys. They haven’t hit that free-agency mark. They haven’t hit those big salary years. We could be sitting on a higher payroll team. You don’t worry about it too much just because baseball is such a game of execution.”
Dale Thayer (1-0) pitched a perfect eighth for the win.
Smith was acquired to provide a left-handed bat off the bench. He went deep on a cutter.
“You get in the box and it’s an at-bat,” he said. “As a professional ballplayer you hope that you can kind of flush the fact that it’s your first at-bat with your team or it’s in a big spot or whatever, and just do what you’ve been practicing for the last six weeks.”
Wilson said it was tough to deal with because Ryu “pitched such a marvelous game. It’s a hard one to swallow.”