LOS ANGELES -- It wasn't a case of sheer nervousness that finally did in Wade LeBlanc on Wednesday, though making his Major League debut in front of 48,000 or so fans wishing him the worst didn't make his plight easier. In the end, it was a lack of command that left LeBlanc's head spinning and his pitch count reeling after four breathless innings, as the Dodgers parlayed a big fourth inning into a 6-4 victory over the San Diego Padres. LeBlanc, considered one the prized pitching prospects in the Padres' system, got his first Major League hit, though he'll have to wait for his first Major League victory, as the left-hander suffered the kind of woes that plagued other rookies who have followed him.
"The game is a little faster. ... The one thing I have to do is learn to slow the game down," said LeBlanc, who was recalled from Triple-A Portland on Monday. "It went a little quicker than I wanted it to. I wish it could have been the other way around." You don't have to explain the slowing-things-down theory to fellow rookie pitcher Dirk Hayhurst, who made his Major League debut in a start on Aug. 23 in San Francisco. It is a sentiment no doubt shared by rookies Josh Geer and Chad Reineke, who made their Major League debuts in starts before LeBlanc arrived. "The first time you're out there, you're dealing with things you'll never deal with again," Hayhurst said. "You do everything to get there, it's been your goal. Then when you do, a lot of things are going through your system you're not prepared for. "It's an experience like no other. It comes at you quick." Truth be told, LeBlanc was already in trouble, heading toward a high pitch count, before reaching the fourth inning when a tenuous 3-1 lead dissolved into a 5-3 deficit by the time the inning was over. "Wade couldn't seem to get any rhythm to his pitches, and his command was off," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He got in some deep counts and couldn't get a feel for his changeup. One hundred pitches in four innings is a little steep." All told, LeBlanc needed 36 pitches to cover three outs as Los Angeles got consecutive home runs by its seventh and eighth hitters, Blake DeWitt and Angel Berroa, whose long ball was his first since 2006. The home run to DeWitt came on a fastball out over the plate. The home run to Berroa, one that gave the Dodgers (70-70) the lead for good, came on a curveball that LeBlanc tried to bury in the strike zone but instead left up. All told, LeBlanc allowed five runs on eight hits with three walks and one strikeout. He was able to, at times, get his best pitch, a plus-changeup, over for strikes, but he found that Dodgers hitters were looking for it, because he had nothing to complement it. "It seemed like toward the end of the game they were looking for the changeup," LeBlanc said. "Tonight, I didn't have anything else." The Padres (53-86), who have now lost their last nine road games, their longest rut on the road since 1999, built a 3-1 lead on the strength of two-run double by Josh Bard into the gap in left-center off Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda (8-10)in the fourth. Kevin Kouzmanoff homered to tie the game earlier in the inning, his 20th of the season. The Padres outhit the Dodgers, 11-9, as rookie left fielder Chase Headley had three hits to raise his average to .270. Another rookie, Will Venable, who started in center field for an injured Jody Gerut, added two hits. "We swung the bats well but couldn't seem to add on," Black said. "It looked like we had the makings of a couple [big] innings but couldn't sustain it."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.