Gwynn saves game with clutch throw in 10th

Gwynn saves game with clutch throw in 10th

PHILADELPHIA -- Tony Gwynn knew he had only one play -- and it wasn't about the percentages, and it wasn't about good technique. It was about saving the game.

With one out in the 10th inning and the Padres clinging to a hard-earned 6-5 lead, Chase Utley blooped a single to center with Placido Polanco on first. Polanco got a good jump and was headed to third when Gwynn came in, on the run, and fired a throw to third in one motion, off the wrong foot. It was a bullet, and right on target. Chase Headley slapped the tag on Polanco, and the Padres escaped potential disaster.

"I was telling some of the guys, I played with Milwaukee and came in here when the Phillies won the World Series [in 2008],'' Gwynn said. "And I remember a bunch of times when we went for the safe play, and they would come back to beat us. Well, not this time. We fought too hard to let it go to waste. I was going to take my shot.

"I knew I couldn't set my feet. I just had to use my arm and get as much on the throw as I could."

Gwynn is tied with four other National League center fielders with a 1.000 fielding percentage and the best zone rating in the league. He has a strong arm, but the best thing he had going for him on Sunday was pure aggression.

"I'm not a big risk-taker, by nature,'' Gwynn said. "But instinct told me to just go; no crow's hop, just go get it. I thought I was shallow enough that if I didn't get him at third, I could keep the ball down and not let the guy get to second. I took a shot, and it worked out."

Headley tried to deke Polanco a bit, standing still as if the throw wasn't coming, but Polanco knew it was going to be close.

"One out, you have to try,'' Polanco said.

"Give him credit," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "The ball wasn't hit real hard. He charged and he didn't wind up or anything, he got rid of it real quick. He made a good throw, too."

"I thought he had a chance," Headley said. "He was in shallow. And he made a tremendous throw. He didn't even gather himself, just a throw to third that was right on the money. That was a huge out."

If Gwynn doesn't make that play, Polanco is at third with one out and Ryan Howard at the plate. There was also the chance that Utley could have reached second on the throw, putting the winning run in scoring position.

"Great play," Padres manager Bud Black said. "A do-or-die play. If he's safe, and Utley gets to second, the winning run gets in scoring position. That's a make-or-break play. He had to charge, throwing off the wrong foot, and made a great play.

"Polanco made the right play, too. He got a good jump on that blooper. He made us make a play, and we did. For us to continue to win games, we need that. We need our defense to do what it's done all season."

Gwynn's play to save Sunday's game came after several uncharacteristic miscues gave the Phillies some early runs.

The Padres pride themselves on defense and being aggressive -- and eventually, it showed.

"Today was probably our worst defensive game of the year," Gwynn said. "But at the end we started to tighten up a little bit.

"If we pitch like we can pitch, and play defense, we'll be in every game."