It's the season of top prospect call-ups, and Thursday the San Diego Padres made their move, promoting first baseman Anthony Rizzo from triple-A Tucson and putting him in the starting lineup against the Washington Nationals. Rizzo was to make his Major League debut in front of the home crowd, and I don't know if you'll believe me, but people were actually excited. Padres fans were excited about something about the Padres. For real, I got a text message and everything.
Rizzo, you see, is the team's big hope in searching for a successor to Adrian Gonzalez. Dealing Gonzalez left a huge void, and Rizzo and his 1.159 triple-A OPS stand the best chance of filling it.
So how'd Rizzo's debut end up going, you ask? It went just about as well as anyone could've hoped.
Rizzo came to bat for the first time in the bottom of the second, against Livan Hernandez. As he stepped in, he received as much of a standing ovation as anyone in Petco's ever going to get.
Rizzo ultimately wound up striking out looking on a pitch that appeared inside, which was anticlimactic, but it all worked out in the end. Rizzo shook off his nerves and found his timing, and in his second at-bat, he arrived.
Batting against Hernandez to lead off the bottom of the fifth, Rizzo worked a 2-2 count before doing this:
It was, in so many ways, a perfectly appropriate moment. Rizzo worked a good at bat. He put a perfect swing on the ball. He blasted the pitch way deep to center field, with Livan Hernandez hanging his head on the mound. And Rizzo wound up on third base with a triple, because home runs aren't allowed in Petco Park. It was both Rizzo's welcome-to-the-Majors moment and Rizzo's welcome-to-Petco moment, rolled into one. It happened to Gonzalez, and it'll happen to Rizzo, now and forever.
Rizzo would score in the fifth and bat again in the sixth. With two on and one out, he took four low balls to draw a six-pitch walk off Sean Burnett. And in his final plate appearance, against Henry Rodriguez in the seventh, Rizzo worked another six-pitch walk for his second base on balls in as many innings.
In all, Rizzo batted four times, seeing 21 pitches. And he reached base three times, becoming the sixth Padres player in franchise history to reach base three times in his big league debut. The last to do it was Wiki Gonzalez in 1999. Gonzalez also tripled. The man to do it before Gonzalez was Derrek Lee, and the Padres wouldn't be too upset if Rizzo went on to have that kind of career.
As for the rest of the game - yeah, there was a whole baseball game around Rizzo's four trips to the plate. Chase Headley put the Padres up early with a two-run blast in the bottom of the first, and though the Nationals got a run back in the second, Aaron Harang limited the damage. Rizzo scored after his triple in the fifth on Chris Denorfia's RBI single, and the Padres blew things open with a three-run sixth. Brad Hawpe hit an RBI single, Kyle Phillips drew a bases-loaded walk, and Logan Forsythe lifted an RBI sac fly.
At that point, the Padres were up 6-2, and each team would score one more time to achieve a 7-3 final. The Padres improved to 29-35, while the Nationals fell to 27-36.
In closing, I'll leave you with this. Livan Hernandez may have gotten tagged with the loss after allowing six runs in 5-1/3 innings, but his night really could've been a lot worse than it was.