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Padres walk off on Villanueva's pinch-hit heroics

August 18, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres unveiled a nine-foot-tall bronze statue of Trevor Hoffman beyond the left-center-field bullpens at Petco Park on Saturday. Then, they went out and did what Hoffman did for 16 seasons in San Diego.They owned the ninth inning.After Craig Stammen pitched a perfect top half of the

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres unveiled a nine-foot-tall bronze statue of Trevor Hoffman beyond the left-center-field bullpens at Petco Park on Saturday. Then, they went out and did what Hoffman did for 16 seasons in San Diego.
They owned the ninth inning.
After Craig Stammen pitched a perfect top half of the ninth, pinch-hitter Christian Villanueva swatted a broken-bat single to left field, plating Travis Jankowski with the game-winning run. The Padres had rallied for a 7-6 victory over the D-backs, continuing the celebration that began three hours prior with the statue's unveiling.

"Man, that was awesome," Stammen said. "Trevor's night, and it couldn't have ended in a better way for the Padres. He's such a big part of this organization, and I even feel like he's a part of this team. He's around a lot, he's in Spring Training a lot. I was fired up for it. Big walk-off win."
"Hells Bells," Hoffman's signature entrance song, blared from the Padres' clubhouse as the team celebrated its victory afterward. Eventually, the tune died out.
"Play it back!" one player yelled, and shortly thereafter, AC/DC's unmistakable bells and distorted guitar rang from the clubhouse speakers. The song played three times before the usual postgame mix kicked in.
At one point, an emotional Hoffman -- who currently serves as a special adviser for the club -- walked through the clubhouse in full uniform, fighting back tears. His three sons and his brother, Glenn, the team's third-base coach, followed closely behind, beaming.
"He's as admired and respected as any person you could come across in that clubhouse," Padres manager Andy Green said. "To get the walk-off hit to win a baseball game -- that's fun."

At one point during the afternoon, Green wasn't sure whether Villanueva would be available to hit at all -- let alone record the game's decisive swing. In each of the past two nights, Villanueva had been hit by a baseball in his left foot, once on a foul ball and once on a hit by pitch.
Before the bottom of the ninth, Green asked Villanueva if he'd be ready when the pitcher's spot came around. So Villanueva and his swollen foot trekked back to the batting cage, where he took a few practice cuts and informed Green he'd be good to go. Green told left-hander Robbie Erlin to be ready to pinch-run if Villanueva reached.
Jankowski led off the frame with a walk and moved to second on Eric Hosmer's groundout. With two outs, the D-backs called on right-hander Yoshihisa Hirano. They opted to walk Hunter Renfroe intentionally, setting up a favorable matchup with Villanueva, who has struggled to hit right-handed pitching.
After falling behind, 1-2, Villanueva fouled off one pitch and laid off another. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Hirano tried to drop in a splitter. Villanueva looped it into left, and Jankowski scampered home.
"It's a dream come true to hit a walk-off up here at the big league level," Villanueva said. "That's something I've always wanted to do. And after a ceremony like the one we had tonight, with a living legend for the team, it really pulled everything together."

All week, the Padres have found themselves playing catch-up. They've given up multiple runs to the D-backs in the first inning of every game this series. They hadn't held a lead since last Sunday. This time, however, they fought their way back.
Lefty starter Clayton Richard was hit hard, allowing five runs on nine hits in five innings. During the first half of the season, Richard was a serviceable innings-eater for San Diego, but he's regressed since the All-Star break and owns a 7.84 ERA in the second half.
The Padres' bats took Richard off the hook. Trailing, 3-0, in the fourth, they rallied to tie the game, with Freddy Galvis' two-run single serving as the inning's big blow. After Richard coughed up two runs in the fifth, the Padres scored three times on RBI hits from Hosmer, Cory Spangenberg and Austin Hedges.

Each of the first seven Padres hitters recorded at least one hit. Hosmer and Galvis reached base three times apiece.

Stammen entered in the eighth and worked two perfect frames, recording three strikeouts in the process. It was a performance worthy of the man whose presence has always loomed in the Padres 'pen -- and now does in a literal sense.
"It's just kind of cool that you can look over your shoulder and see such an icon that we all look up to and want to strive to be like," Stammen said "... He represents our bullpen, and we all try to represent him on the field as best we can."

Stammen has been excellent lately, having pitched scoreless ball in 13 of his last 14 appearances. He owns a 2.85 ERA in a team-leading 55 appearances.
"Today we were all messing around trying to learn how to throw his changeup. But it's impossible. And [pitching coach Darren] Balsley was like, 'I've seen a million people try it, and nobody can do it.'" -- Stammen, on Hoffman
Brett Kennedy's first two big league starts haven't gone as planned. In 16 outings at Triple-A El Paso this season, Kennedy wasn't saddled with a single loss. In two starts in the Majors, he's lost twice while surrendering 11 runs and 20 hits in nine innings. Kennedy will look to get on track in Sunday's series finale at 1:10 p.m. PT. Arizona counters with right-hander Zack Greinke.

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