Padres MLN: Late bloomers rally too late

Peoria, AZ – The Padres exploded for a five-run ninth inning but fell just short in a 6-5 loss to the Texas Rangers in a battle of the teams' Low-A squads.

With Felix Carrasco at first, Cedric Hunter ignited the Padres with an opposite-way double to left field that placed two on with nobody out. Jeremy Hunt RBI ground out scored Carrasco and sent Hunter to third, allowing the latter to score on a passed ball one pitch later. When Kyler Burke smashed a double to center field, fans in attendance perked up at the prospect of turning a blowout into a close contest.

Michael Campbell continued to perform well with runners in scoring position, connecting on a line-drive single to right field that advanced Burke to third. With runners at the corners and faced with an 0-2 count, Brian Lauderdale pounded a changeup to the third base side that stayed just fair and trickled all the way to the corner, scoring both Burke and Campbell, adding an impressive triple to Lauderdale's spring resume. Having battled back from a six-run hole, the Padres had the tying run at the plate with one out, and a few Rangers coaches began to cringe.

Matt Stocco grounded out to score Lauderdale, bringing the Padres within just one run. Jodam Rivera drilled a line drive to right field, a double that put the Padres just one hit away from an amazing comeback, but Javis Diaz popped out to end the game – and the delirium.

And so ends the Cinderella story.

On the pitching side, Andy Underwood demonstrated heads-up defense on a grounder back to the mound with a runner at third. Underwood immediately checked the runner before throwing to first with ample time to get the runner. Underwood, however, relied too heavily on his changeup and had difficulty keeping it in the strike zone.

Alfredo Fernandez struggled with his control in a relief appearance, walking his first batter before slowing down his fastball – a pitch that the Rangers jumped on for a home run and line-drive single. Fernandez' footwork was impressive on his pickoff attempts, but he's still a bit slow in his throw over to first.

Chris Perez looked unhittable in a perfect sixth inning. The Rangers only once made contact with his pitches, a chopper back to the mound that Perez nabbed before throwing out the runner at first with ease. He struck out the next two batters by using a 90 MPH fastball to set up a nasty slider.

Other Notes:

In addition to his ninth inning double, Hunter worked deep counts and fouled off tough pitches. Sporting a pretty swing and a strong arm, Hunter reinforced his position as a top prospect for the Padres.

Rayner Contreras grabbed his calf muscle after sliding back to second base on a pickoff attempt. He appeared to be in pain for several minutes but showed no long-term ill effects.

Daryl Jones appeared angry at himself after a fourth inning strikeout, hurling his bat in disgust. But Jones should have been proud of his patience: he fouled off five straight pitches before a late swing on a fastball sent him down on strikes.

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