Petco Park has never looked so good to the San Diego Padres, and not just because the fences are no longer so far away. Will Venable homered and hit a bases-loaded triple for the Padres, who rebounded from a dreadful six-game trip to win their home opener 9-3 against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday at their reconfigured downtown ballpark.
''We were all excited to be home and looking forward to playing a good game,'' Venable said. ''We wanted to be aggressive and we made all the plays we were supposed to today and it worked out for us.'' Or, as Mark Kotsay put it after a long spring training followed by two games against Texas at San Antonio and then six road games to open the season: ''It was starting to get hard to find a pair of clean underwear.''
Venable tied his career-high with four RBIs. He homered in the first and his two-out triple highlighted a five-run eighth against three Dodgers relievers. The Padres sent 11 batters to the plate that inning, five of whom walked. Nick Hundley also homered off Josh Beckett for the Padres, who were outhomered 10-1 and outscored 40-14 in going 1-5 in a swing through New York and Colorado.
''We didn't play well on the trip. But our guys have a lot of resolve to play well,'' manager Bud Black said. The Padres spent between $2.5 million and $3.5 million to bring in the fences in an attempt to make the spacious downtown park play a little fairer.
From the right-field porch to the right-center gap, the fence was moved in from 402 feet to 391 feet and lowered to just under 8 feet, matching the rest of the outfield wall. In left-center, the fence came in from 402 feet to 390 feet. That allowed the visiting team's bullpen to be relocated from right-field foul territory to behind the home bullpen. Venable's homer in the first landed in the seats behind the Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Deck on top of the new right-field fence. It would have been a homer in the old configuration.
''He threw a nice elevated pitch right down the middle and I put a pretty good swing on it,'' Venable said. Black said he thinks Petco will surrender a total of 20 to 30 more homers this year. Juan Uribe of the Dodgers was the first player to benefit from the closer fences. He hit a two-run shot that landed on top of the new fence in right in the fourth, tying the game at 2. Adrian Gonzalez was aboard on a leadoff single.
''We're going to mark `em. There's the one,'' Black said of Uribe's shot. ''Let's hope we get the majority of them. Will didn't need the new park with his. Will had a good game. That was great swing in the first inning off of Beckett, and a good at-bat against the lefty. Got it in the right part of the park.'' Six of the Padres' runs scored with two outs.
''We have to do a better job, myself included, when we get two outs,'' Beckett said. ''The Venable home run, you'd like to have that pitch back, but really the two-out groundball, those are tough to swallow.''
After Venable homered, Yonder Alonso doubled to right-center with two outs in the first and scored on rookie Jedd Gyorko's single up the middle. Hundley homered leading off the fifth off the facade of the balcony on the second level of the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner for a 3-2 lead.
The Dodgers tied it in the seventh when Carl Crawford hit a leadoff single against Andrew Cashner, advanced on two groundouts and scored on Adrian Gonzalez's single. San Diego regained the lead in the bottom half on pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay's RBI double. Cameron Maybin reached on a leadoff infield single and was sacrificed along by Hundley, setting up Kotsay. Venable was intentionally walked with two outs to get to Carlos Quentin, who was hit above his right wrist by a pitch from Ronald Belisario (0-1).
Quentin, who's been slow to recover after offseason surgery on his right knee, immediately signaled for trainer Todd Hutcheson. After speaking for a few minutes with Hutcheson and Black, Quentin came out. Yonder Alonso flied out to right to end the threat. Quentin had an X-ray ''and it came back looking good,'' Black said. ''It hit him pretty square. I think we were all holding our breath there. A couple of initial tests that Hutch put him through looked pretty good. He kept his strength; no pain.''
Luke Gregerson (1-0) got the last out of the seventh, the only batter he faced, for the win. Beckett allowed three runs and six hits in five innings, struck out four and walked one. ''He's going to be around the plate and give up his share of hits,'' manager Don Mattingly said. ''But he keeps himself in the game.'' Padres starter Clayton Richard also went five, allowing two runs and eight hits, with three strikeouts and three walks.
NOTES: The Dodgers optioned C Tim Federowicz to Triple-A but have yet to make a corresponding move. ... Black used Eric Stults, who's scheduled to start Wednesday night, to pinch-hit for Richard in the fifth. Stults flied out. Black used Tyson Ross, who's scheduled to start Friday against Colorado, to pinch-run for Quentin in the in the seventh. The moves paid off as Black was able to save Kotsay to pinch-hit in the seventh and Chris Denorfia in the eighth. Denorfia had an RBI single. ... Padres 3B Chase Headley, who broke his left thumb in a spring game, hit balls off a tee and in soft toss, and took grounders. Black says there's no ETA for the return of Headley, whose breakout season of 2012 included 31 homers, an NL-high 115 RBIS, plus his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. Black said Headley probably will go on a rehab assignment before being activated. ''It's healing like it's supposed to,'' Headley said. ''It feels good. They said that I can do as much or little as I want without pain.'' ... TaylorMade, which erected an 80-foot replica of a driver shaft along the right-field foul pole at in 2011 as part of a three-year sponsorship agreement with the Padres, has updated the graphics to a RocketBallz Stage 2 3-wood.
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