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San Diego Soliloquy

What a strange game.

Every West Coast game is strange, from our perspective over here on the other side of the continent. Right about the time body and mind are getting ready to shut down for the night, there's three hours of baseball to be dissected and fretted over. Now throw in Steve Trachsel, who can make you feel like it's past your bedtime at 2pm on a sunny Sunday. And top it off with the fact that I conked out at 8:30, set my alarm for 10:05, and wandered upstairs, groggy and confused, in the middle of Reyes' leadoff at-bat.

What day is it? What year is it? Who are we playing?

Oh yeah, it's Thursday, 2006 and we're playing the Padres. In fact, there's Mike Piazza in San Diegan togs. Is there a stranger franchise of respectable antiquity than the Padres? Blame East Coast bias, but they're one of those teams I always forget about, playing in the shadow of the Dodgers in a uniform and colors they change every year. We see them seven times a year and the rest of the time they're some vague presence time zones away. So while I felt a happy flash of recognition the first time Piazza swung his front foot out of the box to gather his thoughts (batting stances are like smells for how they can snap your memory instantly into focus), it felt less like a proper reunion than it should have. It's not like he's a Phillie or a Yankee (ugh) or an Oriole or a Red Sock or something else we could keep proper track of. Instead, here's a glimpse of him in the wee hours, in the anonymous uniform of the West Kamchatka TBDs, wearing 33, in a park that never seems properly lit. And then somehow he turned into Doug Mirabelli halfway through. Strange things happen out here on the West Coast.

Kaz's inside-the-parker was fun (what inside-the-parker isn't?), though I couldn't help notice that Piazza helped by managing to get himself out of position. It behooves all of us — doubters, booers, and mere giver-uppers — to hope that Kaz can relax in the eighth slot and be the player every scouting report swore he'd be. Or even be half that player. With Anderson Hernandez suddenly and shockingly injured (and apparently injured rather seriously), this is Kaz's chance. One would say his last chance, if not for the fact that our braintrust seems to regard Jeff Keppinger with the disdain usually reserved for hubcap thieves and teens buying loosies from the deli. (Someday I'd like an explanation for that.) Let's call it this Kaz's latest chance, and hope he takes it. An inside-the-park home run and hanging in there on the pivot when it really, really mattered is a nice start.

As for the offensive explosion, like seeing Big Mike again it somehow didn't feel the way it should have. Part of it was Jake Peavy mowing us down in the middle innings, when this game sure looked like one of those dead-assed coast-to-coast losses you chalk up to jet lag and the cruelty of the schedule makers. Another part of it was how sudden it was — so sudden I wouldn't be surprised to see the team lapse back into offensive drowsiness today. It came and went in a flash, like one of those rainstorms that soaks people but comes so quickly it runs off before it does the plants much good. (Not that I'll be giving the W back.)

Maybe it's just the brownout against our eldest rivals, but this team's health continues to worry me. Beltran left again; MRI today. (Eeeek.) There's the thing with Floyd's ribs, Delgado icing his elbow and shaking his wrist, A Hern's bulging disk…enough of a list that it gets a restless mind looking for problems everywhere else. Will Reyes take a misstep? How's Pedro's toe? Isn't Matsui due to trip over a bat and shatter his pelvis? And David Wright may be healthy, but he looks like he could use a mental-health day: You can see him fretting before throws to first and he seems anxious at the plate.

Ack! Enough! We won. That's the important thing. The rest of it? It's just San Diego in the middle of the night.