MILWAUKEE -- Regular playing time was scarce for Hunter Renfroe early this season. But he played every inning of every game during the Padres' seven-game trip through Chicago and Milwaukee.And he made the absolute most of that opportunity.Renfroe capped a torrid week with his biggest swing yet -- a go-ahead
MILWAUKEE -- Regular playing time was scarce for Hunter Renfroe early this season. But he played every inning of every game during the Padres' seven-game trip through Chicago and Milwaukee.
And he made the absolute most of that opportunity.
Renfroe capped a torrid week with his biggest swing yet -- a go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning on Thursday afternoon as the Padres rallied for an 8-4 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park. He demolished a 1-2 fastball from Joakim Soria into the second deck in left field.
Before he left the box, Renfroe bowed and gathered his bat with both hands before flipping it emphatically up the third-base line in celebration. He pumped his fist as he rounded first.
"It was just like, '[Heck] yeah!'" Renfroe said. "Let's be honest here, that's just the way it was. I don't know if you've ever had that experience happen to y'all. But it's pretty exciting."
In the process, Renfroe became just the fourth Padre in history to hit a go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning with his team trailing. He joined Bip Roberts (1995), Steve Finley ('98) and Rondell White (2003).
No question, the home run stole the show. But the 0-2 fastball Renfroe laid off was nearly as noteworthy -- at least in terms of his development. Renfroe has struggled with plate discipline, particularly against hard-throwing right-handers. But he worked an eight-pitch walk in the first against Brewers starter Junior Guerra. He tacked on a double in the fifth before his showdown with Soria in the ninth.
"That was a great pitch by him," Renfroe said of the 0-2 fastball, two inches off the outside corner. "I was able to lay off of it. I got a pitch I could actually handle with the next pitch, and I hit it out of the ballpark."
Three Padres walked to start the frame against Brewers closer Corey Knebel, and Travis Jankowski reached on an infield single, cutting the deficit to 4-3. After Eric Hosmer flied out to shallow right field, Renfroe delivered.
And the Padres weren't done. Franmil Reyes, another slugging corner outfielder, swatted an opposite-field shot one batter later, giving San Diego a six-run ninth and a four-run lead, and icing a 4-3 road trip against a pair of potentially playoff-bound clubs.
"Really pleased with the fight from the club this whole road trip," said Padres manager Andy Green.
The biggest positives from the Midwest swing: Renfroe and Reyes, without question.
Renfroe has now homered in four straight games, two shy of Graig Nettles' franchise record. He hit safely in all seven games and batted .379 in that span. Reyes, who was recalled when William Myers landed on the disabled list, went 3-for-5 with a double and is 9-for-15 over his past four games.
When Myers returns from his left foot contusion -- potentially as early as Monday -- the Padres have a decision to make with their remaining corner-outfield spot. Clearly, Renfroe and Reyes are determined to make that decision as tricky as possible.
"They're playing great," Green said. "They're putting themselves right where they need to. They're having fun playing baseball. I know everybody else wants to figure out how it's going to play out in the future. I want them to stay right here in the present."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Walk this way:Freddy Galvis, A.J. Ellis and Carlos Asuaje all drew walks to open the ninth -- including some impressive takes on some decent pitches from Knebel.
"Earlier in the season, those 3-2 counts, there might have been the [same] high fastball, but we swung at them," Green said. "We didn't today. That 3-2 breaking ball, down and in that Asuaje laid off of -- we swung at that pitch. We didn't today."
Jankowski followed with a squibber up the third-base line. By the time Knebel had control, he had no play. But he threw home anyway, and the ball ricocheted off a sliding Galvis. The Padres would've tied the game, but it hit home-plate umpire Todd Tichenor in the leg instead of bounding toward the dugout. Ellis held at third -- setting the stage for Renfroe's heroics.
Galvanized: Thursday marked something of an anomaly for Galvis, the Padres' sure-handed, light-hitting shortstop. He made an error that allowed the Brewers' fourth run to score. But he also smacked his seventh homer and walked twice. Galvis' sixth-inning blast cut the deficit to two, and the Padres' bullpen -- Phil Maton, Jose Castillo, Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen -- held Milwaukee scoreless from there.
Renfroe has now hit each of the Padres' last four grand slams. He's the first player in franchise history to produce such a run. Nate Colbert and Finley are the only other Padres to have each of the ballclub's last three slams at any point.
Left-hander Robbie Erlin was relatively sharp in the early stages, before he coughed up three runs in the fourth. His defense did him no favors. Only two of the four runs he allowed were earned, and he was removed after five innings.
For the time being, the Padres are carrying a six-man rotation, and Erlin -- who spent the first four months of the season as the long man out of the 'pen -- will continue to start. In his two outings on the trip, he allowed three earned runs over 10 innings. He gave up 11 earned runs over seven innings in his two starts during the first half.
HE SAID IT
"Part of it was guys clicking at the right time. Part of it was guys saying, 'Enough is enough. It's time to go play winning baseball.'" -- Green, on the winning road trip, which followed a 5-20 July that was the second-worst month in franchise history
Jacob Nix, the Padres' No. 14 prospect, is slated for his big league debut Friday when the Padres welcome the Phillies to Petco Park for the first game of a three-game set. The 22-year-old right-hander owns a 1.84 ERA in 10 Minor League starts this season. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PT, and Philadelphia counters with right-hander Zach Eflin.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.