White grand slam wins it for Pads
By Mike Scarr / MLB.com
Rondell White hits a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth Friday night. (Denis Ponoy/AP)
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres won in grand style on Friday -- literally.
Rondell White hit a walkoff grand slam off Mariners' reliever Jeff Nelson to turn a 3-0 loss into a 5-3 win. A crowd of 23,500 was in attendance.
White's big blow quickly turned a solid pitching performance by Mariners' starter Gil Meche into mere statistics. It also made a winner
out of Padres reliever Mike Matthews and handed Nelson his first loss.
"I was looking for a ball middle-in because I had been chasing the slider away," White said. "I thought he might try to throw the slider at me and break it across the plate. He threw it across and I hit it OK."
The winning rally started when Gary Matthews Jr. led off the inning with a pinch-hit single. After Nelson got Donaldo Mendez and pinch-hitter Brian Buchanan on strikes, Mark Kotsay followed with a walk.
Mark Loretta then singled and Ryan Klesko walked to force in Matthews.
White followed with his 12th homer of the year, the third grand slam of his career and first-ever walkoff homer.
Rondell White / LF
"That was my first one and it felt unbelievable," White said.
As Nelson struggled, the entire momentum of the game shifted. Even though the big right-hander had the Padres down to their last out, the sense that this was the Padres' game to win became apparent and their skipper could feel it.
"I looked at (Darren) Balsley and said, 'If Loretta can get on here, I like our chances," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said of a brief discussion with his pitching coach. "He did and we had our guy (Klesko) up there and he tried to be careful with him and walked him. Rondell battled his tail off. It looked like he got out in front a little bit but he squared up on it. He's strong and he showed how strong he is."
Stepping up big was the Padres' bullpen. What would have just been an interesting footnote in an otherwise losing effort became a key element in the team's 24th win.
Mike Matthews / P
The pen held the Mariners scoreless over the last four innings with Matt Herges contributing two innings, and Jay Witasick and Matthews (3-3) chipping in with an inning apiece.
But for most of 8 2/3 innings, it was all Mariners.
Oliver Perez started his second game for the Padres since returning from a stint in Triple-A and looked more like the pitcher who was sent down than the one who impressed just a few days ago.
"Last time he was so consistent in his (arm) slot," Bochy said. "Once he dropped down a time or two it seemed he got out of it.
After throwing 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball against the White Sox last Sunday, the left-hander regressed and struggled through most of his five innings on Friday.
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"He was erratic with his command. I thought he was rushing a little bit," Bochy said. "I think he got frustrated with himself at times."
Perez gave up just three hits but it was the six walks he issued while throwing 101 pitches that led to his short night. Two of those walks came around to score. Perez also struck out five batters.
"He kind of regrouped and made some pitches when he had to," Bochy said. "But that one inning he just hurt himself with the walks."
Oliver Perez / P
On the flip side, Gil Meche was dealing for the Mariners and showed why the Seattle staff leads the American League in both ERA and opponent's batting average.
Meche went as deep as five batters in only one of his seven innings and allowed only three base runners to get into scoring position. The right-hander scattered six hits while walking two and fanning four. Meche also collected his first Major League base hit on an infield single in the sixth.
"He had great stuff," Bochy said of Meche. "That's why he's won nine games and it looked like he got his 10th there. He throws hard and has good command and movement. He's only 24 years old. They've got a pretty special guy there."
The Padres put their biggest scare into the Seattle starter when Mendez singled and pinch-hitter Dave Hansen walked with two out in the bottom of the seventh. But Meche retired Kotsay on a fly ball to center to end the inning.
In the eighth, Loretta doubled to lead off the inning, ending Meche's night. Arthur Rhodes entered the game and got Klesko on a ground out to second and White on a fly ball to right. After hitting Sean Burroughs with a pitch, Rhodes sent Xavier Nady down swinging to end the threat.
The Mariners scored three in the third after Ichiro Suzuki led off the inning with a single and then Bret Boone and John Olerud walked to load the bases. Mike Cameron followed with an RBI single off Perez to score Ichiro. Former Padre Ben Davis followed with a two-run double in the right-center field gap, scoring Boone and Olerud to put the M's up, 3-0.