- 142 wins
- 110 wins
SAN DIEGO -- That one was for "Ak".
On the day the Padres received the heartbreaking news that bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds ("Ak") had lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at age 50, they honored their beloved coach in the best possible way: with a shutout.
"That was fitting," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Especially the two guys that he mentored, Joe [Thatcher] and Luke [Gregerson] came in to get a couple outs ... I couldn't help but think about him the whole game."
Gregerson and Thatcher combined with closer Huston Street to preserve a strong performance from starter Edinson Volquez, who tossed 6 and 2/3 scoreless innings before handing a 2-0 lead to the 'pen. That group did Akerfelds proud and made the lead stand up for a 2-0 victory in a game that meant more than the standings might indicate it would.
"At the beginning, things were tempered a bit, but as it got late in the game ... it was a little different," Black said. "It was different when I gave the ball to Joe, it was different when I gave the ball to Luke ... it was different."
The added emotion certainly seemed to fuel, rather than slow, the Padres' pitchers, starting with Volquez, who was 1-5 with a 5.72 ERA in his last seven starts. But while shaky command has been the kryptonite to his electric stuff all season, Volquez's 67 strikes on 115 pitches were just enough to hold the Mariners off the board, and get the ball to the pen.
"We talked about the ineffectiveness of his secondary pitches in the game against Texas, I think he had his secondary pitches today," Black said. "All three pitches were working, he was locating the fastball ... he threw the ball great."
Volquez allowed just two Mariner runners into scoring position, a feat Padres' hitters bested against Seattle starter Hector Noesi, though he gave up just two runs in six innings of work en route to the loss.
Those two runs came courtesy of a fourth-inning bases-loaded rally, in which San Diego filled the bags with no men out for the struggling Cameron Maybin, who had dropped to the seventh spot in the order thanks to his .210 average. Maybin responded, rocketing a line drive back at Noesi, but the righty somehow snared the liner, preserving both his health and the shutout, at least momentarily.
With Volquez waiting on deck, Alexi Amarista was the last line of defense between the Padres and another of this season's frustrating wasted rallies. The 5-foot-7 rookie known more for speed than power responded with an opposite-field double over the head of the Mariners' left fielder Casper Wells, a two-run knock that gave the Padres the only runs they would need.
"We just were playing in and he doesn't [normally] do that, but he got a good piece of it. So I just had to turn and run," Wells said. "Bases loaded with a guy like that, you've got to take your chance. If he gets a good piece like that, that's what you're forced to deal with."
With those two runs as support, Volquez pitched into the seventh when a walk to pinch-hitter Jesus Montero forced Black to bring in Thatcher. Thatcher threw one pitch, the only one he'd need to get the always-dangerous Ichiro to hit an inning-ending groundout to second.
"To get out there today and get a big out for us, it was such a relief to come out and do the job for [Akerfelds] and preserve the ballgame," Thatcher said.
Gregerson followed that up with a scoreless eighth, and Street threw a 1-2-3 ninth to preserve the win.
With the win, the Padres earned their second series victory over the Mariners this season and their fifth series victory in their last eight Interleague series dating back to 2010. They also finished 2012's edition of AL/NL action with a winning record -- 8-7. But ultimately, Sunday's win belonged to "Ak," whose legacy was clear in the success his students and friends had in earning it.
"It was a great day, yet sad," Black said. "But the outcome was ... for all of us who've known him a long time ... it was special."
Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.