Villanueva homers for Padres in win
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Christian Villanueva heard the name and didn’t need a translator to explain what it meant.
Villanueva hit his 15th home run to help the San Diego Padres beat the Miami Marlins 8-3 on Thursday night — and his long fly was a significant one.
Villanueva’s homer total before June 1 is the most by a National League rookie since St. Louis’ Albert Pujols hit 16 in 2001. His power surge has helped the Padres win three straight and four of their last six games.
“Albert Pujols is going to be a Hall of Famer, without a doubt,” Villanueva said through an interpreter. “It’s an honor to be among those guys. But the biggest part for is just doing my part and helping the team win.”
Manager Andy Green said he’s no longer surprised when Villanueva flexes his muscles.
“He hits the ball well in the air to his pull side,” Green said. “That is a recipe for power.”
Jordan Lyles had the blueprint for success with seven solid innings.
“He was very good today,” Green said. “We think there is even more in there and that he is on the cusp on doing special things.”
After taking a perfect game into the eighth inning in his last start at Petco Park, Lyles (2-1) wasn’t as dominate against the Marlins. But he limited them to two runs and six hits while walking one and striking out seven in his fifth start after 13 appearances out of the bullpen.
Lyles found his fastball command after his pitch count grew in the first two innings.
“We got back on track, settled down a little bit and got things rolling,” Lyles said.
Brad Hand got the last out with the bases loaded for his 17th save after newly acquired Phil Hughes struggled in the ninth. Derek Dietrich homered off Kirby Yates in the eighth.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly wasn’t thrilled with his team’s offensive approach.
“It didn’t feel like much,” he said. “I thought at-bats were not great tonight, honestly.”
Wei-Yin Chen (1-3) got just five outs in his shortest stint of the season. He allowed four runs and four hits, and walked two and struck out four.
“It’s baseball,” Chen said through a translator. “Sometimes you have good days, sometimes you have bad days.”
San Diego pulled away with a three-run, fifth inning against former Padre Odrisamer Despaigne to build a 7-2 cushion. Hunter Renfroe hit an RBI double, A.J. Ellis got a run in on a fielder’s choice and Renfroe scored on a grounder, thanks to an earlier error by Starlin Castro which extended the inning.
The Padres struck early against Chen as they seized a 2-0 lead three batters into the game. Jose Pirela opened with a single and Villanueva followed with his homer, a blast off the Western Metal Supply building’s second deck in left.
Miami tied it at 2 in the second thanks to an unlikely offensive source in Chen. After not collecting an RBI in his first 68 career at-bats, Chen sent a one-out, slow grounder through the middle that scored Brian Anderson and JT Riddle. Both had reached on singles.
“Your heart drops when that happens,” Lyles said of Chen’s hit. “That’s the lowest of the lows, but we were able to bounce back and put up five scoreless after that.”
But San Diego chased Chen and grabbed a 4-2 advantage in the second inning when Eric Hosmer, who had three RBIs and three hits, sent a sinking line drive toward center field, with Ellis and Lyles aboard. Lewis Brinson attempted a diving, back-handed catch, but the ball trickled off his glove with both runners scoring.
Padres: LHP Joey Lucchesi (strained right hip) is close to throwing a simulated game. If that goes well, next would be a minor league rehabilitation start.
Reds: RHP Tyler Mahle (3-6, 4.76) looks to rebound against the Padres on Friday night after escaping with a no-decision when allowing four runs, four hits and four walks in six innings against the Rockies in his last time out.
Padres: RHP Walker Lockett (0-0) will start the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Reds as he makes his big league debut after seven years in the minors. The 24-year-old was 2-5 with a 5.31 ERA in 10 starts for Triple-A El Paso.
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