SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Imagine if the San Diego Padres had played like
this against St. Louis in October.
Clay Hensley pitched eight strong innings and 37-year-old Mike
Piazza showed he still has pop by hitting a monster homer to lead
the Padres to a 7-1 victory over the NL Central-leading Cardinals
on Friday night.Dave Roberts and Adrian Gonzalez also homered for the Padres,
who won for the third time in 10 games.It was the first time the teams met since St. Louis swept San
Diego in the division series last postseason, outscoring the Padres
21-11."All around it was as good a game as you can play," Padres
manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think you have to play your best ball
if you're going to beat a team like the Cardinals. They're so good
everywhere."Said Piazza: "They're a great ballclub, and we're just
fortunate we caught them on a little bit of a down night."Albert Pujols, who leads the majors with 23 homers, drove in St.
Louis' only run with a single in the third and finished 1-for-2,
increasing his majors-leading RBI total to 58. In the first, the
Padres intentionally walked Pujols after Scott Spiezio doubled with
one out. Both runners were stranded. Pujols was hit on the left hip
by a pitch in the eighth.Hensley (3-3) held the Cardinals to one run and five hits,
struck out five and walked one. He also doubled in the four-run
second for his first big league RBI.The Padres led 5-0 after two innings."When you get out there and you've got some runs on the board,
you're not pitching so tight," Hensley said. "You can kind of
throw balls down in the zone or down the middle and let them hit
the ball. We've got a great defense. It makes it a lot easier to
pitch that way."The Padres jumped on Jeff Suppan (5-4), who didn't face them in
the division series.Roberts hit a leadoff homer to right, the sixth time in his
career he's opened a game by going deep. It was his second this
season.Gonzalez homered to left with two outs in the third, his fifth.Piazza hit a ball estimated at 432 feet into the balcony on the
third floor of the Western Metal Supply Co. Building just beyond
the left-field corner leading off the fifth, his seventh. It came
one pitch after catcher Gary Bennett couldn't hold onto Piazza's
foul ball just in front of the Padres' dugout."I just got the head on it and hit it pretty well," Piazza
said. "It was just fortunate the catcher dropped the ball. It was
appropriate. Fortunately I got a second life and didn't miss it."In the top of the inning, Piazza was hit by a foul tip near his
left armpit that wasn't covered by his chest protector.San Diego scored four runs on five hits in the second."Suppan had a really rough night and Hensley had the
opposite," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "It wasn't much
of a game."Khalil Greene hit a leadoff double down the left-field line and
scored on a single to center by Geoff Blum. After rookie Josh
Barfield forced Blum at second, Hensley doubled over the head of
center fielder Jim Edmonds, who was playing in, to score Barfield.Roberts followed with a single to center, and Mike Cameron drove
in both with a single to center."They hit me pretty good and Hensley threw the ball well,"
Suppan said. "That was the game."Pujols singled in David Eckstein with two outs in the third.
Cameron made a spectacular diving grab of Scott Rolen's fly ball in
right-center for the final out, extending himself to make the catch
and then rolling over.Suppan allowed seven runs and nine hits in six innings, struck
out three and walked two.
Piazza's homer was the third-longest in Petco Park history,
following Sammy Sosa's 434-foot shot on May 15, 2004, and Matt
Holliday's 433-footer on Sept. 5, 2004. ... Roberts' previous
leadoff homer was last June 22 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. ...
Bennett struck out four times. ... About a dozen Cardinals came
down with a stomach ailment on Thursday, which ruined a day off.
"We would have had a hard time fielding a team yesterday," head
trainer Barry Weinberg said. ... Blum started in place of slumping
3B Vinny Castilla, who's hitting .225 with one homer and 10 RBI.
Bochy said Mark Bellhorn probably will start Saturday. ... Bochy
said Piazza will get Saturday and Sunday off.