Upton vs. Greinke a classic baseball matchup
Reliever Maurer has 0.41 ERA over last 21 games
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
Baseball offers one thing few other sports can match -- classic matchups ... pitcher vs. hitter.
And there was a great one Saturday night at Petco Park in San Diego with the game on the line.
The Dodgers right-handed ace (Zack Greinke) was paired against the Padres top hitter (left fielder Justin Upton) with the game tied at 1-1 with two out in the bottom of the eighth.
"Wasn't that great," Padres manager Bud Black said later.
"Look at Upton, look at Greinke. You had two, high-caliber, All-Star performers toe-to-toe with the game on the line and a high-pressure situation . . . two great players matched against one another. Greinke was so tough tonight. We know what Upton can do."
And Upton did it.
Upton drove a full-count slider from Greinke 406 feet into the entrance of the Padres bullpen in left center to give the Padres the decisive run in a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers.
This round to Upton and the Padres, who, for the first time defeated Greinke.
"Pressure situations are what we live for," said Upton after his 13th homer of the season snapped the Dodgers' four-game winning streak and gave the Padres only their fourth win against the Dodgers in 11 games this season.
"Greinke was really tough tonight," continued Upton. "I had to wait him out. You know you are in for a fight when you're facing Greinke, but you welcome the challenge. I just happened to get a mistake and he doesn't make many mistakes."
Greinke and Upton have dueled before.
The homer was Upton's second against Greinke. He has a career .370 (10-for-27) batting average against Greinke.
"I see him pretty decent," said Upton, who also got his ninth game-winning RBI of the season on the homer off Greinke.
"It was my first bad slider I threw all day," Greinke said of his home-run pitch to Upton. "When you make a mistake to him, he does damage. I didn't want to throw the ball in the middle of the plate. You never do, but more so than normal in that situation. I made a mistake."
Greinke (5-2, 1.95 earned run average) entered the game with a 5-0 career record against the Padres with a 1.53 earned run average in 10 starts. He allowed two runs on eight hits over eight innings, issuing one walk while striking out six.
From the scorecard
• Right-hander Brando Maurer is on the best run by a Padres relief pitcher this season. He has worked scoreless relief in 20 of his last 21 outings, allowing one run on nine hits and four walks with 18 strikeouts over his last 22 innings for a 0.41 earned run average. During the run, Maurer's earned run average has fallen from 4.50 to 1.69. He also got the win Saturday night thanks to Upton's homer. Maurer is 4-0 on the season with three of those wins coming in his last five outings.
• Yonder Alonso made his first start for the Padres at third base Saturday night. He had made one other start at third with the Cincinnati Reds in 2011. Alonso used a glove that his brother-in-law, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, sent him two weeks ago when Alonso started fielding grounders at third. Alonso, whose total Major League experience at third base before Saturday night's game covered 12 1/3 innings, fielded two grounders and made flawless throws across the diamond to 1B Wil Myers. Alonso at third enabled the Padres to get both the bats of Myers and CF Will Venable into the lineup.
• Venable was 2-for-4 Saturday and is hitting .298 (34-for-114) since May 8 when he started playing regularly in center due to the loss of both Alonso and Myers to the disabled list.
• Left-hander Cory Luebke, who had two Tommy John surgeries since he last pitched early in the 2012 season, started and pitched a perfect inning Saturday for high Single-A Lake Elsinore. Luebke, 30, was 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA after five starts and emerging as the Padres top pitcher when he injured his elbow. He had his first Tommy John surgery in 2012 and the second last season. Luebke has been in extended spring training in Arizona. He threw 14 pitches with eight for strikes and got three ground ball outs. "It was fun, but I was a little nervous," said Luebke. "All 14 pitches I threw were fastballs. Once I threw my first strike the nerves calmed down and I was back into it."