Steal of home in ninth leads to Padres' wild win

Steal of home in ninth leads to Padres' wild win

Steal of home in ninth leads to Padres' wild win
LOS ANGELES -- When Everth Cabrera arrived at third base with no outs in the ninth inning on Saturday, he probably never figured he'd be anchored there for as long as he was.

As it turns out, he spent that idle time well.

Even as his teammates failed to knock him in, Cabrera managed to pass the time smartly, studying the mound habits and routine of Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in case he decided to make a dash for the plate, a risky play that rated as a monumental long shot at best.

Or was it?

"I wanted to try something different," Cabrera said afterward.

But Cabrera actually did break for home and scored when Jansen briefly turned his back on the plate. His teammate, Will Venable, followed him home with the go-ahead run from second base as the Padres ran off with a 7-6 win over the Dodgers that certainly qualified as improbable.

"He took a gamble," Padres manager Bud Black said of Cabrera. "He thought it was worth it."

The Padres trailed, 6-5, entering the ninth inning but quickly pieced together what appeared to be a very promising inning as Yonder Alonso started the inning with a single. Cabrera was inserted as a pinch-runner.

When Venable singled, the speedy Cabrera moved from first to third base. The tying run was just 90 feet away with no outs in the inning.

If Jansen was rattled, he quickly regained his composure, though it took an exhausting 11-pitch effort to finally strike out Cameron Maybin for the first out as Cabrera stood with hands on his hips at third base.

Jansen then got pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay to pop up to second baseman Mark Ellis for the second out.

Jansen fell behind 2-0 to leadoff hitter Alexi Amarista, with the second pitch in the dirt, though it didn't roll far enough away from catcher A.J. Ellis to allow Cabrera to advance. As it turned out, though, he was already plotting a plan to score.

Two strikes later, Jansen had evened the count with the Padres (35-54) down to their last strike with the crowd of 54,014 on its feet, sensing a victory.

That's when Cabrera took off for home, but not before Jansen momentarily turned his back on the plate. Once Jansen noticed Cabrera was running for home, he threw high to Ellis, who thought he caught the ball. He even applied a tag to Cabrera with plate umpire Greg Gibson calling Cabrera out.

The only problem was the ball wasn't in Ellis' glove, as it had sailed to the backstop. And then, seconds later, it was Venable who scored when he noticed that Jansen -- apparently stunned by what occurred -- failed to cover home for a return throw from Ellis.

"I kept waving him, just kept sending him," Padres third base coach Glenn Hoffman said of Venable's sprint to the plate.

Or as Venable said after the game: "I just went along with him [Cabrera]."

Two runs, no hits and a momentum-changing play that left more than a few people -- players, coaches and even managers alike -- scratching their heads and wonder what had just happened.

"It was a great heads-up play by Cabrera," A.J. Ellis said. "I give him all the credit. He found the right opportunity and made a play for his team. I give him a lot of credit for that."

Cabrera appeared unfazed after the game, even admitting that he had pulled a similar stunt while in the Minor Leagues. This, of course, was a much bigger stage, even for a team well out of first place in the National League West, far behind the Dodgers (48-41), who dropped out of first place, a half-game behind the Giants.

Black heaped plenty of credit on Cabrera after the game.

"Cabbie is a very aggressive baserunner," Black said. "He watches. They're always watching. He must have saw something that indicated he wanted to make a play. From there, it unfolded. It was such an element of surprise."

The Padres put themselves in a position to strike in the ninth inning thanks in part to three RBIs from Carlos Quentin, who singled in the eighth inning to make it 6-5. He hit a solo home run earlier in the game as well.

Chase Headley erased a 4-2 deficit with a two-run home run in the sixth inning to tie the game, though Andre Ethier came back in the bottom of the inning with a two-run home run of his own off of reliever Brad Brach to forge a 6-4 lead.

Three innings later, the Dodgers handed the ball over to Jansen, who on Friday notched his 16th save of the season. Despite a rocky ninth inning, he was still one strike away from save No. 17 before Cabrera stole the momentum with his intrepid play.

"You know he [Cabrera] is a high energy player who is always active on the basepaths," Ellis said. "You never want to let your guard down. We were one strike away from winning that game and you've got to be ready for anything that can happen.

"If I'm aware and paying attention, he might not take off. If I'm aware and paying attention, we throw him out at the plate."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.