Padres rout Cards to take opening series
One more win, and the San Diego Padres have their first season-opening sweep since 1984. Patience at the plate got them to this point.
Pitcher Clayton Richard had two RBIs to match his career high without getting the ball out of the infield and pitched six solid innings in an 11-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday. The Padres broke it open with a six-run fifth that included four hits, four walks and a sacrifice fly.
''We did a really good job of working (Jake) Westbrook,'' Chase Headley said. ''By guys laying off and having tough at-bats, even if they were making outs, they were taking five, six, seven or eight pitches and that takes its toll over the course of time.
''We waited them out,'' Headley added.
Albert Pujols homered on the 10th anniversary of his major league debut and Allen Craig, subbing for ailing Matt Holliday, had a two-run single for the Cardinals. St. Louis led 2-0 after one inning and 3-2 after three but Westbrook (0-1) was knocked out after retiring only one of six batters in the Padres' six-run sixth.
''I'm concerned about everything all the time, so you don't get surprised,'' manager Tony La Russa said. ''I'm concerned about everybody.''
Headley had a career best-tying four RBIs, including a two-run homer in the ninth for the Padres, who are 6-14 at 6-year-old Busch Stadium but clinched their first series win in St. Louis since September 2006. They'll go for their first three-game sweep in St. Louis since June 23-25, 1980, on Sunday with Dustin Moseley facing Jaime Garcia, third in NL rookie of year voting but coming off a rough spring.
The Padres' last sweep to open the season was a two-gamer in 1984 at home against the Pirates. They haven't opened the season with a three-game sweep since April 8-10, 1969, their inaugural season, at home against the Houston Astros.
''The Cardinals have always played the Padres extremely tough here,'' manager Bud Black said. ''There's a long ways to go and it's only two games.''
Cardinals pitchers totaled eight walks, two of them intentional but also two with the bases loaded.
Three of the Cardinals' five hits off Richard (1-0) came in a first capped by Craig's two-run single. The only other damage came from Pujols' first hit of the season, a drive into the visitors' bullpen leading off the third put St. Louis ahead 3-2 and ended an 0-for-6 start that featured a career-worst three double-play balls in the opener.
''It was a home run pitch,'' Richard said. ''It was a backdoor cutter slash slider and he hit it good. After that, we did. He hit it good. After that, we all did well. I threw more strikes and the bullpen did a great job after I left. They threw well.
Richard, who had entered 2-9 with a 5.63 on the road, allowed only two baserunners the rest of his outing.
Richard has nine career RBIs, including three two-run games. His perfectly executed squeeze bunt tied it at 2 in the second and Jason Motte walked him on four pitches for the fifth run in the Padres' fifth.
''I was waiting until I got a strike,'' Richard said. ''He didn't throw me one and I got the walk. That was good.''
A pair of infield hits, a sacrifice and an intentional walk loaded the bases in the fifth ahead of Ryan Ludwick's five-pitch run-scoring walk to snap a 3-all tie and Headley's two-run single chased Westbrook. The right-hander walked five, one below his career worst, and four of them produced runs.
''I guess there's some comfort in knowing I wasn't getting hit around a whole lot,'' Westbrook said. ''But it's still not the pitcher I am.''
San Diego was 3-6 to start the 2010 season, in which it was eliminated on the final day of the season.
NOTES: Padres RHP Mat Latos, on the DL with a shoulder injury, threw out of the bullpen. He's scheduled to throw an extended simulated game Monday in Arizona and could join the rotation in a week or so. ... Nick Hundley has a pair of two-hit games to open the year and had two RBIs Saturday. ... Despite the poor start, the Cardinals have the major leagues' best record in the opening month since 2006 at 76-50 (.603). ... Westbrook entered 2-1 with an 0.55 ERA in four career appearances against the Padres, three of them starts.