SAN DIEGO — The first time through the San Diego Padres batting order Wednesday night, Cubs left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada struck out seven and faced the minimum.
Then as he walked off the field to the dugout, looking down at the grass, he stopped suddenly in foul territory, and reached down. And picked up a credit card.
“Visa,” he said.
He didn’t recognize the name on the card, casually handed it to a security guard near the dugout and just as casually returned to the mound in the fourth and struck out the next batter he faced.
“Should throw more credit cards [on the field],” said catcher Miguel Montero.
The Cubs went on to a 3-2 victory over the Padres.
It wasn’t that easy, of course. Might not even have been the strangest thing about his outing – though Wada says it’s the strangest thing he’s ever found on the field during a game.
In his season debut after spending the first six weeks of the season on the disabled list, Wada struck out a career-high nine, gave up a two-run homer to Justin Upton with two out in the fourth, scored the trying run from first base on Dexter Fowler’s triple in the fifth, and then couldn’t get the third out of the Padres half of the fifth before manager Joe Maddon lifted him. After throwing just 69 pitches.
Wada gave up a bloop double and hit a guy leading off the bottom of the fifth. And after a bunt that went for an out at third, Padres leadoff hitter Abraham Almonte smoked a line drive to Fowler in center for the second out. And Maddon had seen enough.
“He was outstanding. He had great stuff,” Maddon said. “I really believe his trip around the bases kind of tired him out just a little bit. After that line drive to center field by Almonte, I did not like him on [Derek] Norris right there. He had nine punchouts in 4 2/3; he did a great job. And I’m more about the Cubs winning as opposed to any particular pitcher winning.
“So if you let him go for one more third of an inning there, maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. But he was really, really good, and it’s a great game for him to build off of.”
Wada, through video coordinator/Pacific liaison Nao Masamoto, said he wasn’t tired, though he admitted he couldn’t remember when he last ran so much on the bases in an inning (“maybe nine or 10 years ago”).
And he said he was a little surprised to come out of the game so soon.
“But coaches and managers are watching very closely, and I think it’s the right decision,” he said, “and the team won the game so I was happy about it.
“Hopefully, next time it happens again in that situation they will let me pitch and I will have to earn that respect.”
A deceptive fastball and sharp curve ball earned the respect of the Padres hitters at least the first time through the order. Six of his nine K’s came on called third strikes.
Wada, 34, who went 4-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 13 starts as a rookie last year, took the rotation spot of Travis Wood, who moved last week to the bullpen.
A surprised Justin Grimm got ready quickly and walked Norris to load the bases with the Cubs clinging to the 3-2 lead. He then struck out Matt Kemp swinging at a curve ball.
Grimm added a scoreless sixth inning, and four more teammates from that much-maligned bullpen closed out the final three innings – with Hector Rondon striking out Almonte to end the game with the potential tying run at third.
“That’s a confidence builder I think for the entire group, which is what we need,” Maddon said of his pen.
Wada certainly owes them for securing the Cubs’ major-league-leading 12th one-run victory.
Maybe they take Visa.