There was no definitive determination if the ball had touched the screen coming down, and the catcher wasn't sure."It's not an easy play," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher. "It's right at the backstop. Mike hit the backstop ... seemed like that threw him off a little bit. The wind was wreaking havoc up there [and] brought it back more than he thought. You're hoping that doesn't hurt you." Fouling off three more pitches while taking two more balls to run the count full, Pujols launched a cut fastball over the wall slightly to the left of center for a 2-0 lead. Peavy called the Pujols sequence "game-changing," adding, "I've still got to make a better pitch than I did 3-2. It was a cutter right down the middle; those go wrong a lot. But you can't give Albert second chances. He's going to hurt you.
"We let the game get away from us. Obviously, that was the game there."The way Carpenter was mixing his mid-90s heater with a big-breaking slow curveball 20 mph slower, it seemed like it might as well have been 20-0. "You know, going in, the margin for error is not very big at all," Peavy said. Yet the Padres, in their fashion, rallied. They let a big chance get away in the seventh, loading the bases with one out and getting Carpenter out of the game after 6 1/3 innings. But pinch-hitter Mark Bellhorn struck out against southpaw reliever Tyler Johnson, and Walker was robbed when Belliard made a sprawling stab of his sharp grounder in shallow right field and threw out Walker from his back. Some damage control kept the Padres breathing early on. A single by Jim Edmonds and a flared double into shallow right by Scott Rolen had Peavy in trouble again. Juan Encarnacion's deep sacrifice fly to left made it 3-0, but the Padres kept it there when Josh Barfield handled Yadier Molina's grounder behind second, touched the bag and completed the inning-ending double play. The Padres mounted their first threat in the bottom of the fourth. Roberts punched his second single, advancing on Giles' single to left. But after Adrian Gonzalez, the club's best hitter, struck out on a wicked 3-2 curveball, Piazza grounded into a force and Russell Branyan also went down swinging on a big bender that had Carpenter spinning with a flourish out of his delivery. "I'm looking middle-in fastball, and it looked like it was going to be that pitch leaving his hand," Gonzalez said. "I couldn't hold up when it broke down and in. "The fact he was able to throw it to me and Branyan in those situations shows he was comfortable with his curveball. It's an example of huge confidence in your stuff when you can throw it in any situation. "They played our game, plain and simple. They were able to squeeze a couple hits by the infield and just over our head, and they capitalized on those little things. The thing I liked was they were able to catch all those breaks, and we were still in the game." That man Pujols figured again in the fifth when the Cards extended their lead to 4-0. After Carpenter singled leading off and was forced on David Eckstein's bunt, Pujols singled through the middle, and Edmonds followed with an RBI single past a diving Barfield into center. Three consecutive singles in the sixth meant the end of Peavy's day. Piazza caught Encarnacion trying to steal, but Belliard singled, stole second and scored on Molina's single. That brought veteran right-hander Rudy Seanez to the mound, and he retired all five hitters he faced with two strikeouts, matching Peavy. Chan Ho Park worked two impressive scoreless innings, but when the Padres couldn't get balls past Belliard and Pujols, the late-afternoon shadows slanting across the infield knew -- this was the Cards' day.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.