Kemp's outstretched grab sets stage for Padres' rally
DENVER -- When a team scores 21 runs in two games, it's easy to overlook the defense. But one of the realities of baseball at hitter-friendly Coors Field is that solid play in the field can make the difference.
The Padres took an early lead Tuesday, saw the Rockies tie it quickly, fell three runs behind, and finally clawed their way back to a 7-6 victory thanks to 13 timely hits, seven walks and a hit-by-pitch.
But it was the Friars' fielding that kept them in it, cutting off Rockies rallies in their tracks and helping to shift momentum in a game where every edge mattered.
Matt Kemp's leaping catch that saw him land outstretched on the warning track with Charlie Blackmon's would-be triple in his glove was the standout game-changer, ending a seventh that could have quickly turned and instead setting up the Friars' four-run rally to claim the lead in the eighth.
"I got a pretty good jump on the ball," said Kemp, who'd seen two triples elude him earlier. "Just trying to get back and make the catch. He hit the ball pretty hard. I just made an effort and got to it."
It's the kind of effort that has won the Padres games and responds to critics who have maligned the defensive prowess of the outfield patrol.
"We played well," manager Bud Black said of the defensive gems. "We have some defenders. People beat us up a little bit on that, but we take that as a challenge. Outfield defense -- they take it as a challenge. We talk about these things. It's OK. Let them keep talking."
The Rockies scored five of their six runs thanks to triples, with former Friar Nick Hundley knocking a run-scoring triple past a diving Kemp in the fourth, then scoring on an infield grounder to tie the game. Kemp laid out to his left, but just missed getting a glove on the ball before it bounced to the right-field wall.
"I thought I was real, real close," Kemp said of the first triple. "I was already playing on the line. I thought I had a good bead on the ball. The ball just kept slicing, and I didn't get to it and wasn't able to come up with the ball. Hopefully I can make that catch and save us a run or two."
Blackmon tripled in two runs in the fifth and scored on a Troy Tulowitzki sacrifice fly, but as he tried to spark a seventh-inning rally to widen the Rockies lead, Kemp spun his web gem.
"We've made a couple mistakes here and there, but for the most part, we've been pretty good at not giving teams extra outs," Kemp said. "I don't think anybody wants to be labeled as one of the worst outfields in baseball. It all started in Spring Training, getting the work in, and everybody responded well to that. We continue to get work, and we'll continue to get better."