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'Feisty' Asuaje making most of regular at-bats

MLB.com @AJCassavell

PHILADELPHIA -- The right-field wall at Citizens Bank Park towers over the adjoining fence in front of the Phillies' bullpen. Where the two meet, there's a small strip of green padding just above the scoreboard.

In the seventh inning on Saturday, Carlos Asuaje launched a shot off that padding, missing his first career big league home run by a foot or two in either direction.

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PHILADELPHIA -- The right-field wall at Citizens Bank Park towers over the adjoining fence in front of the Phillies' bullpen. Where the two meet, there's a small strip of green padding just above the scoreboard.

In the seventh inning on Saturday, Carlos Asuaje launched a shot off that padding, missing his first career big league home run by a foot or two in either direction.

View Full Game Coverage

No matter. Asuaje happily settled for a game-tying triple and, eventually, the game-winning run in a 2-1 victory over the Phillies. His clutch two-out knock plated Hunter Renfroe, and Asuaje would score one batter later when Austin Hedges punched a single through the right side.

Video: SD@PHI: Hedges gives Padres the lead on RBI single

"I wasn't really thinking about a triple or a double or a homer out of the box," Asuaje said. "I was just thinking about getting that run in. That's the most important thing. After that, I'm happy I ran hard, got to third and was in scoring position for Hedgy."

Asuaje's third trip to the big leagues has, indeed, been a charm. And it's easy to see why.

He spent most of his first stint last September as the Padres' third option at second base. When he was called up earlier this season, he made only two pinch-hit plate appearances.

This time around, he's getting an opportunity and making the most of it.

"It's a confidence-booster for sure, knowing that you're in the lineup consistently, getting consistent at-bats, getting your timing down on an everyday basis," Asuaje said. "It's one of those things where the more you play, the more confidence you get, especially if you're performing up to standards, helping your team win."

With a .306 average and a .346 OPS, Asuaje is doing just that. Plus, since his mid-June callup, he has been a boon to an offense that needed to make more contact.

Tweet from @Padres: It was nearly home run No. 1 for @TherealAsuaje20, but Carlos came up clutch with an RBI triple! �� pic.twitter.com/jBq8E3MGSG

Yes, Asuaje has punched out 14 times since his return. But Green was quick to note the tenacity in his plate appearances. On Saturday, Asuaje worked the count full in the second and fifth innings, seeing 15 total pitches before a pair of K's.

"He's a fighter," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He doesn't want to hear this, because no little guy likes to, but he's feisty all the time. Every single at-bat he has is feisty. He doesn't quit. Even when he punches out, he does not like that at all. He's going into every at-bat giving you everything he's got. That triple was huge for us."

Green also noted Asuaje's improvement defensively since his callup. The Padres asked Asuaje to hone his footwork during the offseason, and he set out to do just that during a stint in the Dominican Winter League. It has paid off, as Asuaje's range has improved markedly.

The Padres will have a decision to make when Yangervis Solarte, the club's starting second baseman, returns from an oblique strain. Until then, the position belongs to Asuaje.

In Green's eyes, regular playing time for a rookie is rarely a bad thing.

"It goes a long way," Green said. "Last year when he was here, he was behind [Ryan] Schimpf and Solarte, wasn't really playing in September, was just kind of sporadically getting at-bats. He knows right now, when he shows up to the ballpark, he's playing. That goes a long way for a young guy, to kind of soothe him and relax him."

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

San Diego Padres, Carlos Asuaje