Trevor Hoffman says the key to being a successful closer is "turning the page."
"Bad night, turn the page," the 37-year-old right-hander said recently. "Good night, turn the page."
But Hoffman won't be criticized for lingering over the page he turned Friday night in St. Louis.
With a perfect ninth inning -- he struck out Larry Walker, retired David Eckstein on a grounder to third and struck out So Taguchi -- Hoffman preserved a 6-5 Padres victory to pick up the 400th save of his career.
Hoffman joined Lee Smith (478) and John Franco (424) as only the third closer with 400 career saves.
"What's better is that we beat St. Louis two straight here," said Hoffman after the Padres won back-to-back games at St. Louis for the first time since July 16-17, 1997. Before defeating the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Thursday night, the Padres had lost 11 straight in St. Louis and 19 of 21 dating to the start of the 1999 season.
The save was Hoffman's seventh of the season, which started with him blowing his first and fifth opportunities. Hoffman, however, has recorded six saves in the Padres' last ten games.
"I grew up with two brothers in a great baseball environment," he said. "I have a very supportive family and a manager who knows how to use me. The main thing is consistency."
Hoffman's 400th save came on his 450th opportunity. His career conversion percentage of .889 ranks third to Eric Gagne and John Smoltz among closers with more than 100 saves.
The Curse of Kournikova was lifted last Thursday night. And with it went the bigger curse of St. Louis.
Brian Giles went 4-for-5 with a homer and five RBIs Thursday night to lead the Padres to an 8-3 victory over the Cardinals in St. Louis -- San Diego's first win at St. Louis since Aug. 28, 2001.
For Giles, his second-inning single was his first hit since he caught the ceremonial first pitch from Anna Kournikova before last Friday night's game at Petco Park in San Diego. Actually, his hitless streak went back to April 27 in San Francisco -- officially a run of 27 hitless at-bats.
"He kissed a princess and turned into a frog," Padres manager Bruce Bochy joked of Giles' post-Kournikova plunge that had taken his season batting average down to .175.
But Giles' problems were bigger than Kournikova. His five RBIs Thursday night were two more than he had had in 25 games since April 7. And his three-run homer off Matt Morris was his first since April 13.
As for the Padres' streak at St. Louis, they had lost 11 straight and entered this four-game series with a 2-19 record in St. Louis dating to the start of the 1999 season.
Manager Bruce Bochy believes injuries -- rather, the lack of them -- are one of the cornerstones of success.
"Staying away from injuries is a key to a successful season, and we've been hit pretty hard right now," Bochy said Wednesday after the team put a key player on the disabled list for the fourth time in the season's first 28 games.
This time the victim was right-handed starting pitcher Woody Williams, who suffered a strained left oblique muscle Monday while taking batting practice -- a day after his latest pitching assignment.
Williams joined shortstop Khalil Greene (broken right ring finger) and utility infielder Geoff Blum (contusion of the left chest) on the 15-day disabled list. Infielder-outfielder Eric Young has been on the 60-day disabled list since dislocating his right (throwing shoulder) April 7.
Williams (2-2, 4.84 ERA) will miss at least two starts. Left-hander Darrell May, who was ticketed to be the Padres' No. 5 starter this season before losing the position in spring training to Tim Redding, will move into the starting rotation. Left-handed reliever Randy Williams was promoted from Class AAA Portland to take May's spot in the bullpen, but has since been reassigned.
While Greene returned to the lineup Monday in Cincinnati and Blum is due back May 14, there are concerns about Williams -- which is one reason why the Padres immediately placed him on the disabled list.
Williams suffered a similar injury in 2002 and missed 16 starts during two trips to the disabled list. "That was more serious, though," said Williams. "I tore the muscle off the bone. This has nothing to do with pitching. I had a real good workout Monday. Then I went to the cage to hit. And in my second round, I felt a tweak in my side. It didn't get any better Tuesday."
But oblique strains can become lingering injuries.
"That's one reason we acted quickly, is to keep it from being a lingering injury," said trainer Todd Hutcheson. "We think we have it under control."
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