Hoffman records save No. 476

Hoffman records save No. 476

SAN DIEGO -- Trevor Hoffman has been around long enough to know the best way to overcome a bad night -- bounce right back with a good one.

Sometimes, even though it is not, it looks as easy as 1-2-3.

After surrendering homers on successive pitches to the Dodgers in one of the more nightmarish performances of his career on Monday night, Hoffman, in his words, "got back on his horse" on Tuesday night at PETCO Park and rode off with his 40th save of 2006 and No. 476 of his career in a 5-2 victory over the Diamondbacks.

"I know what we're getting at," he said, in reference to Lee Smith's all-time record 478 saves, "but our focus is on winning ballgames to get to the postseason."

Hoffman followed starter Clay Hensley and relievers Alan Embree and Scott Linebrink to the mound, responding to the familiar cheers surrounding "Hells Bells" to retire all three hitters he faced, including one strikeout.

He found better spots for his deliveries than the ones that Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson took advantage of to dispatch into the Dodger Stadium bleachers.

"You always learn from every outing," Hoffman said, and the lessons from his fifth blown save of the season involved having a short memory and throwing pitches down and on the corners.

"Balls up and out over the plate can get hit pretty hard," he said, grinning. "It's important to put the ball in a good position -- where the defense can go get it."

Hoffman already was the record holder with most seasons with 40 or more saves, and he extended it to eight.

"Any ballplayer will tell you they strive to be consistent," he said. "I've been blessed to have great support over the years from the guys in the bullpen with me. That, and staying injury-free, those are the things you need to get something like that done."

As for the shoulder soreness that came up after his Monday night performance, Hoffman said he hoped this solid effort would dispel any notions that he's hurting.

"I felt good," he said, having pitched for the third time in three days. "Hopefully, going out and pitching tonight can eliminate some of the red flags. Concerns of being injured have subsided a little bit."

Hoffman understands that folks might overreact when he has an off night, and it was compounded when he did not come out and pitch the bottom of the 10th after the Padres had taken a 10-9 lead.

Manager Bruce Bochy didn't want to take any chances with Hoffman, who rarely goes beyond one inning. Rudy Seanez got the call, and Nomar Garciaparra's two-run homer won the game.

"You always want to go out and do whatever you can to help your team win," Hoffman said. "I wouldn't want the perception that I didn't want to go out and pitch for my club. That wasn't the case."

Hoffman has 476 career saves in 532 attempts, a percentage of .895 that is the highest among all pitchers with at least 190 save opportunities.

Bochy, who long ago ran out of superlatives with respect to Hoffman, had no doubt that his closer would come back strong and was eager to get him back on the mound.

"He located well, with good stuff," Bochy said. "That's why he's so good -- why he's had so much success. He's been able to put tough outings behind him."

Hoffman worked four straight games earlier in the season, right before the All-Star break, at Philadelphia and Washington. Bochy would prefer not to do it again but will wait and see what happens on Wednesday night.

In a pennant race, everything is day-to-day.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.