Wednesday night in San Diego, Bud Black earned his keep.
Yonder Alonso, too. Well, sort of.
Let me explain.
Heading to the top of the ninth inning, Black's Padres trailed the Dodgers 4-1. By then, Black was working with a short bench; Mark Kotsay, Jesus Guzman and Cody Ransom had already pinch-hit, leaving just Carlos Quentin and John Baker available. But Quentin's injured, and Baker's the backup catcher.
Which left Black in a bit of a pickle, because Kotsay had batted for second baseman Alexi Amarista in the bottom of the eighth, and there simply weren't any middle infielders left for the top of the ninth.
Enter starting first baseman Yonder Alonso. Kotsay remained in the game at first base, and Alonso shifted to second. For a while. Mark Ellis led off the ninth, and singled. Matt Kemp, after hitting a monstrous foul ball down the left-field line, lifted an easy fly ball. Next up, Adrian Gonzalez pulled a grounder toward right field that a diving Alonzo couldn't intercept; an actual second baseman probably would have made the play.
With runners on first and third and righty-hitting Andre Ethier coming up, Black sent Alonso to third base -- hey, another new position! -- and waved third baseman Jedd Gyorko to second base. Lefty Joe Thatcher, who wound up pitching the whole half-inning, plunked Ethier to load the bases.
With righty-hitting Luis Cruz and A.J. Ellis coming up, Black switched his third baseman and his second baseman once more. And everything worked, as Cruz fouled out and Ellis cued an easy grounder to Gyorko at third.
There wouldn't be a happy ending for Harry Black, though. Not quite. Thanks to a few hits and a passed ball, the Padres did score a couple of runs in the bottom of the ninth. But the rally ended when, with two outs and two runners aboard, Alonso -- yes, of course it was Alonso -- lifted a can of corn to left-center after a long battle with Brandon League.
And so it goes.