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Renfroe's late HR powers Friars past Giants

April 14, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- When Hunter Renfroe truly squares up a baseball -- as he did against Giants reliever Cory Gearrin with the Padres trailing by a run in the seventh inning on Saturday night -- it tends to carry. And carry. And carry some more.For a moment, the ball looked

SAN DIEGO -- When Hunter Renfroe truly squares up a baseball -- as he did against Giants reliever Cory Gearrin with the Padres trailing by a run in the seventh inning on Saturday night -- it tends to carry. And carry. And carry some more.
For a moment, the ball looked destined for the glove of left fielder Gregor Blanco. Then it looked like it might clear Blanco for a double. Instead, Renfroe's 109-mph shot landed in the first row of seats for a go-ahead two-run homer. It put the Padres on top for good in a back-and-forth 5-4 victory over the Giants before a sellout crowd at Petco Park.
"I was begging for it to get out," Padres manager Andy Green said. "In today's vernacular, I thought it was too low of a launch angle probably. But it worked."

It was, in fact, the lowest launch angle on a home run in the Majors this year at just 16 degrees. Renfroe pumped his fist, as he rounded first base, and the Padres' bullpen took care of the rest
Closer Brad Hand notched his sixth save of the season with a dominant showing -- even by his lofty standards. Hand struck out all four batters he faced, becoming the first closer in Padres history to punch out every batter in a save of more than one inning.
"I just made some good quality pitches," Hand said. "All the strikeouts came on exactly what I was trying to do."
• Hand makes Padres history during 4-out save

Hand's effort made certain that an impressive all-around display from Renfroe wouldn't be for naught. In the top half of the seventh, before his home run, Renfroe played a key role in keeping the Padres within striking distance.
Andrew McCutchen skyed a fly ball to left field, and -- with Joe Panik on third base -- Renfroe came up throwing. The ball appeared to sail up the line on him, but first baseman Christian Villanueva cut it off and fired home. Panik was out -- and was still ruled out after a tense, and perhaps controversial, review.
"I was just trying to get it in and out of the glove as quick as possible and get it to a guy that could make a decision," Renfroe said.

Padres left-hander Clayton Richard was sharp early, but he quickly came unraveled in the fourth and fifth innings. Evan Longoria and McCutchen went deep in successive frames, staking the Giants to a 4-2 lead.
Richard exited after those five innings, having allowed four earned runs on seven hits and three walks. The Padres clawed a run back on Jose Pirela's RBI double in the fifth, but they left the bases loaded, before stranding a pair in the following frame. That only set the stage for Renfroe's heroics.

Before the season began, Renfroe appeared destined to serve strictly in a platoon role against left-handed pitching. But with William Myers and Manuel Margot on the disabled list, he has become the club's everyday right fielder. He's determined to make the most of that opportunity, and homering against a tough right-handed reliever like Gearrin will certainly help.
"That's a really big swing for us," Green said. "That was a great game. He's battling hard up there right now."
Fast start: The Padres took the lead in the first on Renfroe's sacrifice fly, and Villanueva doubled it in no time. He mashed a 108-mph shot off the facing of the upper deck in left field -- the hardest ball Villanueva has hit in his brief big league career. It was the fourth homer of the season for the rookie third baseman, and the first since his three-homer game against the Rockies on April 3.

Game of inches: The Padres thought they'd tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Chase Headley's sharp grounder caromed off the glove of diving Giants first baseman Buster Posey. But the ball kicked directly to Joe Panik, who threw to the pitcher covering, and the Padres left the bases loaded.

Adam Cimber stifled the Giants with scoreless sixth and seventh innings, and the Padres sidearmer would pick up his first career Major League victory thanks to Renfroe's home run.
After the game, Cimber's teammates doused him with a beer shower upon his entrance into the clubhouse. The song "Timber" by Kesha -- which has become Cimber's de facto anthem since his arrival -- blared over the speakers.
Cimber took the loss on Opening Day when he allowed a run on three hits against the Brewers. He's since allowed one run over nine impressive innings, allowing just four hits and striking out 12 in the process.
"[After] the hoopla of the debut and everyone out to see me pitch for the first time, once it's just baseball, it becomes a little easier, more relaxing, and I can just go out there and do my thing," Cimber said.
Pirela scorched a pair of doubles in the first and fifth innings Saturday, the first leaving the bat at 106 mph, according to Statcast™, and the second at 104. They were Pirela's 14th and 15th hits this season with an exit velocity of 100 or greater, the most such hits on the Padres. (Eric Hosmer is second with 13, and Renfroe is third with nine.)

Joey Lucchesi's Major League career is off to a fine start, and he gets the ball Sunday when the Padres and Giants wrap up their four-game set in San Diego. In three starts, Lucchesi owns a 1.72 ERA while averaging more than a strikeout an inning. He'll be opposed by Giants rookie right-hander Tyler Beede, with first pitch slated for 1:10 p.m. PT on Jackie Robinson Day.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.