Asuaje’s RBI single in 9th lifts Padres past Cardinals
ST. LOUIS — In the middle of a seventh straight losing season, the San Diego Padres are in developmental mode.
One of the things that has become clear is their team speed ranks up there with anyone.
It clearly affected the texture of Thursday night’s game with the St. Louis Cardinals, especially in the last two innings. After using fleet feet to keep a rally at bay in the bottom of the eighth, San Diego employed its quickness in the ninth to take extra bases that proved vital to the winning rally in a 4-3 decision.
The result secured the Padres’ first series win in Busch Stadium since the opening weekend of the 2011 season. They were 4-14 the past five years, including series sweeps in 2012 and 2016.
“Regardless of what has happened, the biggest thing for us is to do our job every night,” left fielder Jose Pirela said through an interpreter. “Take every game like it matters and let the rest take care of itself.”
Pirela put his footprints on both key sequences. He raced to the gap in left-center to cut off Paul DeJong’s leadoff smash, turning a potential double into a single. That meant DeJong could only reach second on Dexter Fowler’s subsequent single.
That kept the double play in order. Reliever Kirby Yates (3-4) induced St. Louis’ fourth one of the night, a 4-6-3 bouncer off Yadier Molina’s bat, and whiffed Jedd Gyorko on a 3-2 slider. That kept the game tied at 2.
It was then time for San Diego (57-70) to turn its speed loose offensively. Pinch-hitter Jabari Blash greeted Sam Tuivailala (3-2) with a single and then advanced to third on a hit-and-run single from Manuel Margot. When center fielder Dexter Fowler missed the cutoff man, an alert Margot took second.
Carlos Asuaje poked Zach Duke’s second pitch under the diving Gyorko at first for an RBI single to snap the deadlock. Pirela then lofted a sacrifice fly to right, Margot barely beating Randal Grichuk’s accurate throw home for what proved to be the winning run.
“It turned out to be pretty big, especially Manny taking that extra base on the throw from center field,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “We can impact the game that way. We have that type of speed, so it’s good to see it utilized.”
In a different way, speed colored San Diego’s two-run sixth. With the bases loaded and one out, St. Louis pitcher Carlos Martinez fetched a one-hopper from Cory Spangenberg that appeared to be a 1-2-3 double play.
But Martinez rushed his throw home and airmailed Molina, allowing Margot to score. When Matt Szczur beat out a slow bouncer to third, Asuaje scurried home with a 2-1 Padres lead.
“When it came time to throw it, I just lost control,” Martinez said through an interpreter. “Those are the errors that will cost you a win. That’s on me.”
It was the only time San Diego got to Martinez, who allowed seven hits and one earned run over seven innings. He walked two and fanned six, but was denied his fourth straight win.
Padre starter Luis Perdomo matched Martinez during his six innings, scattering seven hits and yielding two runs. He walked two and fanned two while inducing a pair of double plays to give him 24 for the year.
Gyorko drilled an RBI double off Perdomo in the fourth to initiate scoring. Molina lined a two-out single down the left field line in the sixth that tied the game at 2.
Grichuk lined his 16th homer of the year to start the ninth against closer Brad Hand. The tying run didn’t get out of the batter’s box, though. Hand whiffed two hitters and bagged his 12th save.
“Last night was an ugly game, but I thought we were resilient tonight,” Green said.
NOTES: St. Louis 1B Matt Carpenter (virus) didn’t play for the second straight game but was available for pinch-hitting duty if needed. Carpenter, the team’s usual leadoff hitter, wasn’t at the ballpark for Wednesday night’s game. ... San Diego RHP Jhoulys Chacin (hand) is considered day-to-day after being injured while fouling a pitch off Wednesday night. Chacin became the first player in MLB history to hit four batters and collect two hits in the same game during his 6-2 loss. ... Cardinals INF Jedd Gyorko had homered in six straight games against the Padres before failing to hit one Wednesday night.