Amarista's homer helps Padres rally past Phillies
Shortstop misses out on cycle, but go-ahead, two-run shot is key blow
SAN DIEGO -- Alexi Amarista has essentially saved the Padres this season by more than admirably filling in at shortstop for oft-injured Everth Cabrera, as his much-improved defense has surprised coaches, manager and even his teammates.
On Tuesday, his bat caught up with his glove.
Amarista had three hits, including a go-ahead, two-run home run, as the Padres topped the Phillies, 5-4, before a crowd of 24,541 on a sticky night at Petco Park, where the ball maybe got a little extra carry in the warm air.
How far? For Amarista, who is not known for his power, it was just enough.
"That was a huge home run," said Padres manager Bud Black of Amarista, who missed hitting for the first cycle in franchise history by a triple. "He had a big night."
By all accounts, Amarista has had a big season, as he's filled in at third base, second base, the outfield as well as shortstop, where his defense has rated above average. And while he doesn't hit many home runs -- this was, after all, just No. 4 on the season -- he seems to pick good times to do so.
Each of his four home runs have come in victories, all of which have been decided by three or fewer runs -- the first coming on April 6 in Miami when he hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter in a 4-2 victory, a game that Tuesday's starter Ian Kennedy also started.
"I've been the beneficiary of those," Kennedy said. "Having someone fill-in, playing multiple positions … you're going to need those guys. You can't put a price on that. You can tell from talking to him that he has a cool and calm demeanor."
The same wasn't always the case Tuesday for Kennedy (11-13), who took a 2-1 lead into the fifth inning when he walked the No. 7 hitter, Cameron Rupp, with one out, before allowing a home run to Freddy Galvis. Kennedy then walked the next two hitters before getting Chase Utley to fly out.
In all, Kennedy - who also allowed a second-inning home run to Domonic Brown -- threw 36 pitches in that fifth inning for the Padres (70-80).
"I was just falling behind, just missing and there were some borderline calls," said Kennedy, who allowed three hits with four walks and seven strikeouts in six innings. "I was trying to execute my curveball and it was a little below the [strike] zone."
That happened to be the same spot where Burnett (8-17) thought he missed to Amarista with a runner on in the sixth inning. But Amarista was able to drop the bat head on the ball and lift it high in the air -- sending it deep to right field. In April and May, with the marine layer, that ball probably doesn't go out. But Tuesday, it did, sneaking just over the wall in right field for a 4-3 lead.
"He hit a good curveball, down and in," Burnett said.
Jedd Gyorko followed with a RBI single for a 5-3 lead, which would prove important as the Phillies (69-82) got a run in the ninth inning off closer Kevin Quackenbush, who still earned his fourth save.
"I was surprised," Amarista said through an interpreter. "I was happy to see it go out."
So, too, was Black, who has spent the last month or so raving about Amarista's play defensively.
"We knew when we first got him, the Angels' coach said he will never lose you a game in the field," said Black of the trade in May of 2012 that brought Amarista to San Diego. "The last month, he's been as steady as any shortstop in the NL defensively. We've been very impressed by his play."