SAN DIEGO -- When the Padres acquired Chan Ho Park from the Rangers for Phil Nevin, Eric Young grinned knowingly. "Chan Ho can still pitch," said Young, Park's teammate and friend in Los Angeles and Texas. "He might surprise some people." It didn't take long for Park to surprise a whole lot of people.
Park made a triumphant PETCO Park debut on Tuesday night, drawing a rousing ovation from a 41,977 sellout crowd as he left in the sixth inning of an 8-3 victory over the Mets that extended the Padres' lead over the Diamondbacks to four games in the National League West Division. Khalil Greene, with a homer, two singles, three runs scored and a run-saving defensive stab at shortstop, had a sensational game behind Park. Dave Roberts, Mark Loretta and catcher Miguel Olivo each had two of the Padres' 15 hits, with Brian Giles launching his 11th homer, taking Pedro Martinez deep in the fifth inning. Greene's 10th homer came in the second, establishing that the Padres would not be intimidated by the right-hander. Park getting the upper hand in a duel with Martinez, a potential Hall of Famer, was something few could have anticipated. But that's exactly what happened. "He looked comfortable," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said of Park, who didn't survive the fifth inning in his first start for San Diego in a no-decision at Pittsburgh. "He had great stuff and was locating his pitches. He had them all working. His ball was moving." Park was consistently in the 90s, throwing harder than Martinez, who had the shortest of his 23 starts with the Mets: five innings. Giving up nine hits and five runs, all earned, Martinez was not nearly as efficient with his five innings as Park was with his 5 2/3. Park, 1-0 as a Padre and 9-5 including his time in Texas, gave up two earned runs and six hits, walking one and striking out eight. When someone asked about the strikeouts, Park said, "So what?" No wonder he wasn't impressed. His single-game high is 14, set with the Dodgers in 2000, when he was 18-10 and struck out 217 in 226 innings. Park came back the next season with 218 Ks, going 15-11. "He was one of the top four or five [pitchers] in the league," Ryan Klesko recalled. "His stuff was electric." "Chan Ho was throwing 91 to 94 [mph] tonight," observed Giles, who will save Park some runs chasing down drives in the right-center gap. "When he has the kind of stuff he had tonight, he can pound the strike zone. He's pitching in a park where a guy can hit it good and still have it be an out. It should benefit him." Klesko, back in the lineup after missing five games with a flare-up in his back, made a tumbling catch of a pop by the game's first hitter, Jose Reyes, and doubled home a run in the third inning. Park started that uprising by turning, in Bochy's words, a double into a single. Park overran first base after having trouble finding the bag. It was one of his few mistakes, and it didn't matter in the big picture. Park scored easily on Joe Randa's double to righ-center. Klesko doubled home Randa and scored on Robert Fick's two-out single. This was the third time Martinez, the league strikeout leader by two over the Padres' Jake Peavy with 168, has given up five runs in a game this season. Park was grateful for his defense. Greene saved a run with a diving stop of David Wright's single in the fifth, keeping Cliff Floyd, who had doubled, anchored at second. Park got Mike Piazza to hit into a double play and struck out Mike Cameron, escaping unscathed. "As a player coming into a new situation, I always think there's a certain drive to want to succeed as soon as possible," said Greene, pleased to ease Park's burden. "I can say that's the case for myself, whenever I've come into a new situation. You want to do well to show you can contribute." Greene has homered three times in the past seven games, with the Padres winning six of those games. "It feels good to play like a first-place team again," said Scott Linebrink, who rescued Park in the sixth by striking out Wright looking with two runners on, Floyd and Miguel Cairo having singled in runs. It was Clay Hensley rescuing Linebrink in the seventh, getting the final two outs after pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson's RBI single. Olivo, trying to establish himself as an everyday catcher, doubled home Greene in the sixth and singled in a run in the eighth after a Loretta double and Greene's third hit, an infield single. Greene scored for the third time on Randa's fielder's choice. By then, Park was enjoying the fruits of victory in the company of his new team and old buddy. "Eric Young, I played with him on the Dodgers and in Texas last year," Park said. "He knows me. We talk a lot. He's a good friend, very respectful. "The first thing, when they made the trade, I was happy he's on this team. He's a great person and teammate. He knows how to be a leader."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.