SAN DIEGO — For one day at least, the moderate-payroll San Diego Padres are in first place in the National League West, ahead of the big-spending Los Angeles Dodgers.
Seth Smith hit a towering drive for a tying homer leading off the eighth and Chris Denorfia singled home two runs to give the Padres a 3-1 victory against the rival Dodgers in baseball’s North American opener Sunday night.
Smith’s first hit with the Padres came on a 2-0 pitch from Brian Wilson, who started the eighth after Hyun-Jin Ryu threw seven scoreless innings. It sailed an estimated 360 feet into the right-field seats. It was his seventh career pinch-hit homer. He was acquired in an offseason trade with Oakland for reliever Luke Gregerson.
Wilson (0-1) walked pinch-hitter Yasmani Grandal, who advanced when the veteran reliever couldn’t handle Everth Cabrera’s bunt for an error. Grandal stole third and Cabrera took second on indifference before Denorfia hit a bouncer up the middle to bring them both in.
"They’re all just one game, but when you’re facing a team like the Dodgers, full of great players, Brian Wilson, a guy who knows how to get it done in those situations, it’s not easy to do what our hitters did," said Huston Street, who pitched a perfect ninth for the save. "To come back and get three right there in that situation, especially after leaving guys on base early, that’s what this team is going to have to do to win. We’re going to have to battle all year long."
The Dodgers set a record with an Opening Day payroll of $234 million. The Padres are 21st at just under $90 million.
Street said he has no problem with the discrepancy.
"They’ve got a lot of talent and their talent has earned those salaries," Street said. "They’re not just given. At the same time, a lot of guys in this locker room are young guys. They haven’t hit that free-agency mark. They haven’t hit those big-salary years. We could be sitting on a higher-payroll team. You don’t worry about it too much just because baseball is such a game of execution."
Dale Thayer (1-0) pitched a perfect eighth for the win.
Smith was acquired to provide a left-handed bat off the bench. He went deep on a cutter.
"You get in the box and it’s an at-bat," he said. "As a professional ballplayer you hope that you can kind of flush the fact that it’s your first at-bat with your team or it’s in a big spot or whatever, and just do what you’ve been practicing for the last six weeks."
Wilson said it was tough to deal with because Ryu "pitched such a marvelous game. It’s a hard one to swallow."
He said he threw a pitch "that was a little bit uncharacteristic of me. Right then and there, the tire deflated."
The defending NL West champion Dodgers had started the regular season with a two-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney.
Ryu got the start after reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was scratched because of a swollen back muscle and then placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his seven-year career.
In a scheduling quirk, the left-hander started consecutive regular-season games. He made his season debut a week earlier, when the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks in their second game in Australia.
Ryu retired 16 in a row from the second inning until one out in the seventh. He then walked rookie Tommy Medica, who was then erased in a 3-6-3 double play.
Ryu allowed three hits, struck out seven and walked three.
The Dodgers grabbed the lead on a nice piece of hitting by Carl Crawford with two out in the fifth.
Crawford went the other way with an 0-2 pitch from Andrew Cashner, hitting it over third baseman Chase Headley to bring in Dee Gordon from second. Gordon had reached on a walk and advanced when Cashner fielded Ryu’s bunt and forced A.J. Ellis at third.
Cashner allowed four hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked two.
NOTES: The Padres renamed the broadcast portion of the press box the Jerry Coleman Broadcast Center in memory of the Hall of Fame broadcaster who died on Jan. 5 at 89. His widow, Maggie, and daughter, Chelsea, threw out the ceremonial first pitches. . . . Sunday night’s attendance of 45,567 set the Petco Park single-game record. . . . Padres manager Bud Black said LF Carlos Quentin’s time on the disabled list will go beyond April 10, when he’d be eligible to be activated. He was placed on the DL on Saturday, retroactive to March 25, with a bone bruise in his left knee. Quentin was hurt diving for a ball in a spring training game. . . . Monday is an off day. Tuesday’s scheduled starters are Zack Greinke for Los Angeles and Ian Kennedy for San Diego.