Padres walk off after Despaigne flirts with history
Righty comes four outs from club's first no-no; Smith gets walk-off hit
SAN DIEGO -- The bustling and shrill tenor of the Padres' dugout took on a much more serene tone at a singular moment Sunday, and it all had to do with the right arm of rookie pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne.
"The dugout changed in the middle of the sixth inning," said Padres manager Bud Black. "It got a little more ... quiet."
That's because Despaigne, the 27-year-old Cuban defector who wasn't even part of the organization three months ago, was busy flirting with franchise history in just his fifth Major League start.
Despaigne, who wasn't perfect in terms of command, was attempting to toss the first no-hitter in the history of a franchise that originated in 1969.
But Despaigne's no-no bid fell short as Daniel Murphy lined a double to left field with two outs in the eighth inning in what became a 2-1 Padres victory over the Mets before a crowd of 31,513 at Petco Park.
The Padres remain the lone big league franchise without a no-hitter.
"Hopefully, I can get one next time," Despaigne said through an interpreter.
The Padres won it when Seth Smith's high chopper near the mound was fumbled away by Mets reliever Josh Edgin, who stumbled and fell down on the play, allowing pinch-runner Cameron Maybin to score the game-winner in the ninth inning.
"That was an unusual one," Black said.
He could have just as easily been talking about Despaigne's start -- either to his big league career or this particular start against the Mets (46-52).
Using his mixed bag of arm angles, differing velocities and a variety of pitches -- the same formula that has worked well for him previously -- Despaigne worked through the Mets' lineup with relative ease at times.
Take Murphy's fourth-inning at-bat. He took an 88-mph sinker for a strike and later laid off a 92-mph fastball. He later popped up on a 73-mph changeup. Some of his teammates saw 65-mph curveballs from Despaigne.
"He kept me off-balance," Murphy said. "He was throwing his changeup, his curveball, had a little bit of life on the heater, too, a little sink. It took us a little while to get to him. I thought I saw the ball pretty well, he just kept me off-balance."
At one point, Mets veteran Bobby Abreu turned to home-plate umpire Chris Guccione and joked, loud enough for catcher Yasmani Grandal to hear: "He's cheating."
Despaigne didn't get his no-hitter, but he did extend his impressive run in the big leagues, albeit in a relatively small sample size for the Padres (43-55), who took two of three in the series.
How impressive? In each of his first five Major League starts, Despaigne has pitched six or more innings and has allowed two or fewer runs. That's good enough for a 1.31 ERA and a spot every fifth day in the rotation.
"He's never going to show you the same pitch," said Grandal, who gave the Padres a lead with a home run in the fourth inning, his second in as many days. "He's going to show you a different [arm] slot or different speed."
All told, Despaigne allowed two hits and one run, as David Wright followed Murphy's double in that eighth inning with a single up the middle on Despaigne's 123rd and final pitch of the game. He hit two batters and walked three.
He was far from perfect, but for a while, Despaigne allowed Padres fans, his teammates and his coaches to dream big and dream of something historic.
Not bad for a guy who signed a Minor League deal in May with a bonus of just $1 million and was only added to the rotation last month when Andrew Cashner landed on the disabled list.
At this rate, Despaigne is never going anywhere.
"It's like he's been here for 10 years," Chase Headley said.