Norris erases golden sombrero with heroics
Padres catcher overcomes rough night to deliver walk-off grand slam
SAN DIEGO -- Derek Norris went 4-for-4 in five at-bats, but please follow along.
Norris smashed a walk-off grand slam with two outs in the ninth Friday night, lifting the Padres to a 6-2 win over the Pirates.
That takes care of one the fours: four RBIs.
And who gives a hoot now about Norris' other four: four strikeouts?
"It's not the first time and it probably won't be the last,'' Norris said of his four U-turns back to the dugout. "After the last one I was little frustrated.''
But not flummoxed.
Instead he smoked an elevated Rob Scahill sinker over the left-center-field fence for the Padres' first walk-off victory of the season.
Norris went from wearing the golden sombrero to getting his giddy teammates to throw their caps to the sky.
"That's the great thing about this game,'' Norris said. "If you continue to play the game the right way and bust your butt and big situations come up, you have confidence in yourself.''
Belief is one thing; breaking into the record books is another.
Never in Major League history has player fanned four straight times and hit a grand slam. Adding the walk-off component to the milestone is like getting an extra scoop of ice cream.
"Knowing Derek like I know him, in the short period of time, this guy has a lot of grit, a lot of heart and he doesn't stop,'' manager Bud Black said. "He doesn't melt, he doesn't cave in, he doesn't feel sorry for himself. He rolls up at the most critical time.''
Norris' homer, his fourth of the season, came after the Padres loaded the bases with no outs. Pirates manger Clint Hurdle deployed a five-man infield, and after two groundouts, looked like a genius.
But Norris was locked in, even if he been locked up four times.
"It's a long season so to get too down on myself with four strikeouts is just not the way I play the game,'' Norris said. "I play hard and grind out each at-bat, and fortunately I made the most of it.''
Grit, grind and gumption might explain Norris' night.
"He had a rough day at the plate, then when it came down to it, he is such a clutch player,'' starter James Shields said. "He grinds it out.''
Which brought grins and a sense of relief to the Padres. And maybe more, considering the dramatic fashion in which they snapped the Pirates' seven-game winning streak.
"That's the kind of thing that can get things going,'' Shields said. "That's a sign of good things to come.''
Norris, who's first career home run when with the A's was a game-winner to beat the Giants in 2012, agreed.
"Walk-off wins are big morale boosters for clubs,'' Norris said. "Now we have that confidence, late in games, that if you put up a zero we have a shot to win the game. That's our mentality going forward, having confidence in ourselves in the late innings and knowing we can come back from deficits and put up runs late.''
Norris' last call certainly came with a shot, one the Padres were ecstatic to toast.
"It was a great game, it really was,'' Black said. "I was proud of our guys how they hung in there.''
Norris didn't hang his head. Even if a golden sombrero was atop it.