Despaigne shows strikeout stuff in series clincher

Rookie fans career-high eight; Liriano gets first big league hit

Despaigne shows strikeout stuff in series clincher

SAN DIEGO -- Through the first couple months of his Major League career, Odrisamer Despaigne has often been compared to his Cuban countrymate Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez due to their shared tendency to deceive hitters with multiple arm angles and reliance on a platter of different offspeed pitches to induce weak contact rather than rack up strikeouts.

Despaigne shook that label on Tuesday night, though, as the right-hander displayed the best fastball command he's shown thus far in the big leagues to set a new career-high with eight strikeouts in seven scoreless innings and lead the Padres past Colorado in a 4-1 victory at Petco Park.

Despaigne hadn't won since June 29, and had given up 15 runs (12 earned) in his last three starts spanning 15 innings (7.20 ERA) since flirting with a no-hit bid on July 20 against the Mets. In his first career start against Colorado, though, he gave up just five hits and two walks.

"That's more like what we saw the first couple starts out of Odrisamer," said Padres manager Bud Black. "Better use of the fastball, more conviction with the fastball. And that set up the other pitches. … The Rockies were a little more susceptible to the offspeed -- the change, the curve, the slider -- as the game went on. But again, I think all starting pitchers have to base their game around the fastball."

The Padres are now 15-8 since the All-Star break, the best mark in the National League, and have won nine of their last 10 home games while outscoring opponents 48-18 in that span. Colorado, meanwhile, has lost 10 of its last 12 contests and now holds the worst record in the Majors.

"We've got to focus on putting a total game together -- putting together nine innings," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss. "It's been tough to do."

Colorado did threaten to break through several times against Despaigne but stranded five runners in scoring position against him.

Corey Dickerson provided Colorado's only run with a solo homer in the ninth off of Dale Thayer, and also had the Rockies' only hit in five at-bats with runners in scoring position. But his potential game-tying one-out single in the fourth wasn't deep enough to score Justin Morneau from second.

Dickerson broke for second on the preemptive throw home from centerfield, but he was caught in a rundown when it was cut off. Hoping the Padres were distracted, Morneau tried to score, but he too was caught in a rundown and eventually tagged out. Dickerson ended up advancing to third on the play, but it was for naught as Wilin Rosario lined out to end Colorado's best chance against Despaigne.

"My fastball was a lot better today than it was the last two outings," Despaigne said through a translator. "I was just focusing on getting ahead with my fastball, then use my breaking balls. … I got all my pitches for strikes. That was the difference today."

Rymer Liriano, appearing in his second Major League game after debuting Monday, recorded his first career big league hit in the fourth, a chopper to second base that he beat out for an infield single. Liriano then went first-to-third on a Yasmani Grandal single before Abraham Almonte drove him in via a sacrifice fly to put San Diego up, 2-0.

"I think for any Major Leaguer, that's always an exhale when you get [the first hit]," Black said. "I think all players would like a ringing double off the wall or a homer. … He got the hard-hit ball, deflection off the pitcher. [But] tomorrow, across the land in box scores, it's gonna say, 'Liriano: 1-for-3.'"

Rockies starter Yohan Flande also had his first career hit in the Majors, an infield single in the fifth, and had perhaps his best outing of his young career. He allowed two runs and four hits in six innings with two walks and two strikeouts.

It wasn't an outstanding performance, but it certainly kept the Rockies in the game. They just couldn't capitalize off Despaigne, who exited with a two-run lead that still seemed somewhat tenuous until the Friars doubled their advantage in the eighth with Chris Nelson's two-run single off Colorado reliever Tommy Kahnle.

That bookended quite the inning for Nelson, who tumbled into the crowd during the top half of the frame to make a spectacular running grab.

"I thought I was gonna get the ball before I hit the wall, but it didn't work out like that," Nelson said. "It was really cool, that was the first time it ever happened to me in my career. It was one of those situations where I just enjoyed the moment."

Will Laws is an associate reporter for You can follow him at @WillLaws. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.