The Padres parlayed a nine-run fifth inning into what would become an 11-9 victory over the Rockies on Thursday night, burning through five pitchers in the process, sweating out every pitch, every last out before this one was finished.
"You do not see many games like that at this park," Padres manager Bud Black said.
Remarkable? That might be stretching things for a game in mid-August, even in the tight National League West Division, where three games continue to separate the Padres from the first-place Diamondbacks.
Improbable might be a better moniker for the events that led to the Padres' 65th victory of the season and got them from the start to Trevor Hoffman's 30th save, a three-up, three-down outing, resplendent with fireworks afterward.
But the real fireworks on Thursday occurred during the game, especially during the fifth inning, during which the Padres and Rockies combined for a PETCO Park record 13 runs. Nine of those were scored by the Padres (65-55) in a blissful frame that saw eight straight hits with two outs in the inning.
"We weren't thinking about how far we were behind," Terrmel Sledge said of the mood inside the dugout before and during that inning that saw the Padres chase Rockies starter Elmer Dessens.
"I think we were getting a little feisty in the dugout."
That sentiment certainly carried over onto the field, where Dessens and reliever Jeremy Affeldt (4-3) shouldered the burden of runs in the inning, especially Affeldt, who faced five batters in the inning, allowing four hits, a walk and five runs.
The Padres entered the inning trailing, 6-2, and left leading, 11-6, as Mike Cameron had a three-run home run, Pete Laforest added a two-run shot and Sledge doubled in two runs with just his second hit off a left-handed pitcher this season.
This came on the heels of a shutout loss to the Rockies (62-58), though there appears to be no rhyme or reason as to why the San Diego hitters can look so good one day yet struggle the very next day.
This was anything but an offensive struggle, though, as the Friars sent 13 batters to the plate in the inning, scoring nine runs with two outs. The eight hits in consecutive at-bats tied the franchise mark, last set in 1994.
Cameron's home run followed a walk to Laforest and a single by Geoff Blum. That hit allowed the Padres to cut the lead to 6-5. After Adrian Gonzalez singled, Khalil Greene was walked intentionally. That brought up Sledge, who entered the game with one hit in 23 at-bats against left-handers this season.
Earlier in the season, Black often pinch-hit for Sledge in these kinds of situations. With Morgan Ensberg on the bench, Black decided to stay with Sledge because, as he said, it still was early in the game and Sledge had his first hit against a lefty last weekend.
Sledge came through, driving in two runs with a slicing, opposite-field double to the left-field corner on a fastball away that gave San Diego a 7-6 lead.
"Cammy's homer injected a little bit of life back in the dugout," Black said. "Sledgie's double got them going."
The hits kept coming, including a two-run home run to right field off the bat of Laforest, who joined the team last weekend in Cincinnati after Michael Barrett was placed on the disabled list with concussion-like symptoms.
"It was awesome. I think we could do that every day," said Laforest, who had his first three-hit game in the big leagues. "It's a huge game, and it's the first time I'm a part of this in the Major Leagues. I've been in this situation in Triple-A, but this is on a big stage, and today's game was huge."
Said Black of Laforest, who is French Canadian: "Even though he's Canadian ... he's a cowboy."
Nearly lost in the offensive fallout was the pitching of Clay Hensley, who was recalled early in the day from Triple-A Portland to take the spot in the rotation of Wil Ledezma. Ledezma managed just 2 1/3 innings in his first start with the Padres on Friday in Cincinnati while taking the place of veteran left-hander David Wells, who was released on Aug. 8.
Hensley (2-3) certainly pitched deeper into the game than Ledezma managed to, going five innings, though he allowed six runs on five hits with four walks. Four of those runs came during the top of the fifth inning, which is why Hensley got credit for the victory. He was the pitcher of record when San Diego scored nine runs during the same inning.
"Well, I mean I'm obviously not happy about the way I pitched tonight," Hensley said. "I wasn't as sharp as I would have liked to have been, but the guys really picked me up.
"They didn't give up and they continued to swing the bats. ... It's a resilient team, and we came back and it was nice to get the win. I wish I would have pitched better to where I didn't really put us in a position like that."