PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 20: Manager Bud Black of the San Diego Padres watches from the dugout during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on September 20, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Three months ago (June 20) the Padres were a season-low 22 games under .500 and flirting with the number one pick in the draft.
Now (September20), the Padres are 6 games under .500 and flirting with a non-losing record.
For that, manager Bud Black has got to, in the very least, earn an Honorable Mention in the voting for the National League Manager of the Year Award.
The Padres beat the Diamondbacks 6-5 on Thursday afternoon, improving their record to 72-78. With 12 games to play, the Padres need to go 9-3 to finish an even 81-81, a truly stunning turnaround.
Thursday's win might have been Black's best managerial job of the year. Leading 6-5 to start the 9th inning, Buddy asked Luke Gregerson to try and save it. Luke gave up a leadoff single, then got Ryan Wheeler to hit a double play ball at Logan Forsythe.
What should have been two outs became none. The 2nd baseman couldn't field it cleanly and all of a sudden the Padres went from one out away from a win to one hit away from extra innings.
Black replaced Gregerson with Joe Thatcher, who walked Jason Kubel to load the bases with nobody out. Arizona manager Kirk Gibson sent in Chris Young to pinch-hit for pitcher Matt Albers. Black countered by bringing in Ramona High alum Nick Vincent, going with the righty-vs.-righty matchup. Or so it seemed. Gibson blew that up, wasting Young by sending in another pinch-hitter, lefty Mike Jacobs from Hilltop High.
This is one of those situations where Bud might have been baiting Kirk in to making an extra move to get the matchup he really wanted. Against Vincent this year, right-handed hitters are batting .217. Lefties and hitting just .161.
So it came as no surprise that Jacobs popped out to 3rd baseman Chase Headley (who also drove in his 105th run of the season, staying tied with Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun for the NL lead).
Black went to his bullpen again, getting Tommy Layne to face Adam Eaton. Layne got Eaton to hit a slow grounder to Forsythe at 2nd. This time Logan scooped it up and made sure he got the lead runner at home (the infield was in so a 4-6-3 double play was not in the equation) for the 2nd out.
Finally, Black called in Anthony Bass to face Aaron Hill. Bass needed just four pitches to get Hill on a game-ending strikeout.
Every more Black made worked to perfection. The Padres used 5 pitchers in the 9th inning alone. Of course, an awful lot of credit has to go to those guys who came in and made pitches in a tough situation.
San Diego's great finish to the game, and the season, have Friars fans excited about what 2013 might bring.