For the Padres, the formula for success is the same it's been since the dawn of baseball time: Good pitching, good defense, do the little things right.
In Sunday's Opening Night game against the Dodgers, they were successful on all three. This time, that last one was running the bases effectively.
"Our style of play over the years has been, I think, we have to push a little bit to score runs," said Padres manager Bud Black after his team's 3-1 win over the Dodgers.
The biggest baserunning bonanza for the Padres came in the 8th inning. After Seth Smith tied the game with his pinch-hit solo home run off Brian Wilson (becoming the first Padre to hit a pinch-hit HR in the Opener since Rickey Henderson in 1997), catcher Yasmani Grandal drew a pinch-hit walk.
Everth Cabrera put down a good sacrifice bunt that Wilson could not handle, putting Padres at first and second with nobody out. Then Chris Denorfia then squared to bunt, so Dodgers 3rd baseman Juan Uribe charged.
"Deno missed the bunt, and Uribe went in really hard," said Grandal. "Hanley (Ramirez, the Dodgers shortstop) was nowhere near the bag and I didn't think Juan was going to be able to get back. So, I took the chance."
The gamble paid off with interest. LA played the infield in, allowing Cabrera to take second base. Both runners scored when Denorfia scorched a ball up the middle to plate the game's final two runs.
Grandal's steal was the first of his MLB career. In fact, it was his first in a very long time.
"This is actually the first stolen base I've had in my professional career," said Grandal. "I only had one in college (at the University of Miami)."
His team mates appreciated the heads-up play and effort, but also brought up an interesting counter-point.
"It's scary to think that he's leading our team in stolen bases," said 2nd baseman Jedd Gyorko. "We all were kind of in shock that he took off, but it worked out for us."
If Grandal is not the slowest member of the Padres roster, he's close. So, how long would you imagine his franchise stolen base lead lasts?
"Hopefully a day," said outfielder Will Venable, one of the fastest players on the team. "For the base stealers, you don't want those guys holding the title for long."
But, who knows? This could be a whole new dimension to Grandal's game. During his rehab work from the knee surgery, running was a big focus.
"I worked on my speed a lot," said Grandal. "My wife, the first thing she said was, 'You know it would be crazy if you stole a few bags this year.'"
Don't look for Buddy to start giving Yasmani the green light as often as, say, Cabrera. But, so far, who's to argue with the results?
NEWS AND NOTES:
Andrew Cashner threw six innings, allowing one run and striking out five but did not figure in the decision. He has appeared in 15 career games against the Dodgers (four starts) and is yet to earn a decision of any kind.
Smith's home run came in his first at-bat as a Padre.
Huston Street pitched a perfect 9th inning to earn the save.
Denorfia had two hits. Dating back to the end of the 2013 season, he has a hit in eight straight games.
The Padres have a day off on Monday. They play their "Opening Day" game on Tuesday against the Dodgers.