That joke backfired badly Wednesday and in the cruelest of ways for the Padres, as closer Trevor Hoffman, entrusted with a one-run lead in the ninth inning, allowed four runs with two outs as the Astros rallied for a 9-6 victory before a crowd of 18,714.
The Astros, after being held to one run over the first 18 innings in this series, drilled four home runs and actually managed to make spacious PETCO Park look and play small.
"Peavy and C.Y. made it look pretty easy," Padres starting pitcher Greg Maddux said, after Jake Peavy and Chris Young, the starters in the first two games of this series, limited the Astros to one run over a combined 12 2/3 innings.
"But that's probably the best offense that we'll see all season. They're solid one through eight."
That especially showed in the ninth inning when the Astros (1-2) rallied for four runs off Hoffman, who on Tuesday earned his first save of the season by closing out the Astros in the ninth inning.
Hoffman got two quick outs to start the ninth inning before walking Jose Cruz Jr. after he ran the count to 1-2 on the former Padre. Michael Bourn kept the inning alive by rolling a single up the middle.
Hunter Pence then lined a ball toward right field that glanced off the glove of Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, which allowed Cruz to score the tying run. Lance Berkman then cleared the bases with a three-run home run to center field.
"He's one of the best players in the National League," Padres manager Bud Black said of Berkman, who also had two doubles.
And just as he did Tuesday, Hoffman stood in front of his locker and answered questions from reporters. It's something the Major League leader in saves will do after bad outings as well as good ones.
"It's part of the process," Hoffman said. "It's a new day and we're talking today about being on the other end of it. The toughest part is being a strike away from ending that thing. The guys played well enough to win."
The Padres (2-1) certainly hit well enough to win, as they topped 14 hits for the second time already this season, collecting 15 hits -- including a solo home run by Scott Hairston in the second inning and a two-run home run by [Adrian-X] Gonzalez in the third inning.
"This team is going to score some runs," Black said. "Over the course of the season, they're going to hit. The offense is doing great. There are a lot of good things."
Brian Giles, hitless entering Wednesday, had three hits and appeared to give the Padres the lead for good in the bottom of the eighth inning when his sacrifice fly to center field allowed Michael Barrett -- who had two hits and actually went from first to third twice -- to score the go-ahead run.
Enter Hoffman, who got Ty Wigginton to ground out to start the inning and then was able to get J.R. Towles to fly out to shallow left field before Cruz came to the plate.
"He put some balls in spots where they got hits," said Black, who said that he wasn't the least bit concerned about Hoffman.
Nor is Black concerned at all about Maddux, the future Hall of Famer who allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits over six innings with several hard-hit balls that went for outs. Maddux allowed home runs to former Padre Geoff Blum, Wigginton and Carlos Lee.
"I felt real good," said Maddux, who remained stuck on career victory No. 347. "I made a couple mistakes. They hit home runs instead of doubles and singles. They have got power up and down [the lineup]."
It just took a while for them to show it this week.
"You're not going to hold that lineup down," Giles said. "That's too good of an offense to hold down."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less