Urban: Padres might be in Giants' heads

Urban: Padres might be in Giants' heads
July 6, 2011, 6:25 am
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July 5, 2011

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Mychael Urban
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Not long after Heath Bell did a brilliant impression of fellow All-Star closer Brian Wilson, giving the opposition all kinds of hope in the ninth inning before turning nasty with a three-pitch punchout and a dramatic, protracted battle that ended with a bat of Brandon Crawford breaking loudly, Andres Torres provided a fairly easy-to-decode hint of something to which the Giants would surely never admit.The Padres are in their dome again.Or is it still?

Hey, don't think winning the National League West and the NL pennant and the World Series erased all memories of how hard the Padres made the Giants work last season. Or how thoroughly dominant the Padres were over the Giants until very late in the season.Or how freaking impossible it seems to score off that parade of filthy relievers.The latter point was underscored Tuesday in front of the 39th consecutive sellout of the season, and if Wednesday mirrors it, that streak could very well end with Barry Zito trying to stave off a four-game sweep Thursday.Usually it's Luke Gregerson in the seventh, Mike Adams in the eighth and Bell, of course, in the ninth. Lately, as was the case Tuesday, it's been Chad Qualls in the seventh, subbing in for Gregerson, whose Slider From Hell had been on the disabled list since early June until he was activated Tuesday.Qualls, Gregerson, whatever. Nasty is nasty, and Qualls is nasty enough to have been the Diamondbacks' closer not too long ago. Adams is nastier still, with a two-seam fastball that hits the mid-90's on the radar gun and avoids the barrel of bats with cartoonish movement. Then Bell brings the high-90's heat and some wicked secondary stuff. When Gregerson reclaims his seventh-inning role, the Padres will be able to further shorten games to five-inning affairs. They'll need it, too, because their starters are a spotty lot, a far cry from last year's sturdy bunch. "Five and dive" seems like a solid strategy for San Diego at this point, though, because as good and deep and versatile as is the Giants' bullpen, the Padres 'pen has more clearly defined roles and is, quite simply, a bitch of a matchup for San Francisco's offense -- especially in these days of every run seeming like it needed congressional approval.No way the Giants don't feel that, and it was Torres, whose rag-to-riches story of 2010 was on par with 2011's Ryan Vogelsong heart-warmer, who inadvertently made it seem obvious.Torres was ticked that Qualls, after tagging out Torres on a dust-bowl banger at the plate that followed a wild pitch from Qualls and a perfect feed from catcher Nick Hundley, punctuated the play with some shouting and an emphatic spike of the baseball before walking off the field.Torres felt he'd been shown up, noting that as someone who's had to work so hard to get where he now is, he'd never disrespect another player and expects that professional courtesy extended back.Qualls, by the way, has been through some rough times, too. He lost his closer's role in Arizona and posted an 8.29 ERA last season before being shipped to the Rays, where he wasn't much better. So he knows of struggle, and you had to believe him when he said he meant not an ounce of malice toward Torres.In essence, he said, "Hey, it was a huge play at the time. I was pumped. Lost my marbles there a little. No diss intended, dawg."Much ado about nothing, really, but interesting nonetheless. A sports psychologist could probably have a field day with allegations of disrespect perhaps masking feelings of inferiority.Why would the Giants feel inferior to the Padres when they're the reigning world champs? Maybe they don't.But based on San Diego's 12-6 record head-to-head last year, a 3-1 mark thus far in 2011 and that lights-out bullpen to handle anything the Giants' warm-water pistol of an offense can fire at them, would you blame them if they did?