Bell Rings in Post-Hoffman Era, Padres Win

Heath Bell blew 'em away as he rang in the post-Trevor Hoffman era in San Diego.

Bell, who took over as closer after Hoffman's awkward offseason departure, struck out the side in the ninth inning to save the Padres' 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.

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It was the first save opportunity this season for Bell, promoted to closer after Hoffman, baseball's career saves leader, signed with Milwaukee. It was also the first win since former agent Jeff Moorad and his ownership group took control of 35 percent of the team.

After a decade of watching Hoffman jog in to AC/DC's "Hells Bells," Padres fans got their first taste of Bell jogging to the mound in a heavy mist, accompanied by "Blow Me Away" by Breaking Benjamin, from the soundtrack to the video game Halo 2.

"It felt like I was running on air when I jogged in because the crowd went nuts," Bell said. "That's probably what Hoffy felt like all the time. I didn't think they were going to be that loud for me when I was just jogging out, so that was pretty cool to have the fans all behind me."

Bell struck out Matt Kemp, walked Casey Blake, then struck out pinch-hitter Doug Mientkiewicz and Rafael Furcal.

After nailing down his third career save, Bell got an emphatic high-five from catcher Nick Hundley and the two chest-bumped.

"I felt really good. I just kept telling myself, 'Stay back, keep the ball down because it's raining, the wind's starting to howl right now,"' Bell said. "What are the odds for me to replace an icon and the weather is not so nice? I just wanted to go down there and make pitches and get everybody out."

Bell finished a combined five-hitter, with three relievers pitching three hitless innings to preserve the win for Chris Young (1-0).

The Padres pulled their $4 million contract offer to Hoffman in November and he signed a $6 million deal with Milwaukee.

Hoffman has 554 saves, all but two of them with the Padres.

"That means 11 straight years of 50 saves and I'll be one behind him," Bell quipped.

Young said Bell looked sharp and aggressive.

"It was great to see Heath. I'm happy for him. We have complete confidence in him," Young said. "It's a little different than it's been in the past, obviously, for San Diego fans, but Belly's a great teammate and he's going to get it done."

It was a big night overall for San Diego's bullpen, which was one of the team's biggest question marks coming out of spring training.

Edwin Moreno, making his big league debut, escaped a jam in the seventh by getting Manny Ramirez to pop up to first base, ending the inning with two runners on.

After going hitless on opening day, Ramirez doubled and scored Los Angeles' first run. He finished 1-for-4. He stranded two runners in scoring position.

"We had opportunities," manager Joe Torre said. "We had Manny up there with first and second. I'll take my chances with that, even once a game."

Chase Headley hit a two-run double in the sixth and the Padres beat former teammate Randy Wolf.

"It was a good all-around win for the organization," Moorad said. "I think the club showed some resilience and tenacity tonight."

After wasting chances for big innings earlier Tuesday night and in Monday's 4-1 loss, the Padres broke through with a three-run sixth to take a 4-2 lead.

Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanoff singled to open the inning and scored when Headley hit a grounder just inside third base that rolled into the left-field corner. Headley tagged up and went to third when second baseman Orlando Hudson tracked down Scott Hairston's foul pop down the right-field line. After Hundley walked, Headley scored on Luis Rodriguez's sacrifice fly.

Ramirez doubled to right-center off Young leading off the fourth and scored on Russell Martin's double to left-center with one out. Martin scored on Blake's sacrifice fly.

Young held Los Angeles to two runs and five hits in six innings, struck out five and walked two.

Moreno replaced him in the seventh and promptly walked Blake. Pinch-hitter Blake DeWitt grounded out before Furcal walked. Moreno struck out Hudson and got Ramirez to pop up to end the threat.

San Diego took a 1-0 lead in the second when Kouzmanoff hit a leadoff triple that bounced off right fielder Andre Ethier's glove as he tried to make a leaping catch against the wall. Kouzmanoff scored on Hairston's one-out double.

Wolf (0-1) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings, struck out three and walked three.

"All game I was falling behind in the count," Wolf said. "I have to make better pitches, especially in situations with runners on."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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