One of the interesting story lines we haven't seen play out very often during this series is the pinch hit work of the Marlins' Wes Helms and Padres' Matt Stairs, clearly two of the best at their craft in this game.
Among active pinch hitters, the pair rank first or second in nearly every important offensive category. Stairs leads with 88 overall pinch hits in his career; Helms ranks second with 79. Stairs leads in home runs with 19; Helms is second with seven. Helms leads with 20 doubles; Stairs is second with 18. Stairs leads in RBI with 78; Helms is second with 51.
Stairs, 42, has been doing it a little longer. The Padres are the 12th team he's played for in 18 seasons. Helms, who will turn 34 on May 12th, is in his 12th major league season and with his fourth team.
"I think we're both kind of different in our own way," Helms said. "He comes off the bench more with what I call a softball approach. He's trying to jack the ball until he gets two strikes. Then, when he gets two strikes, you see him go into that approach of putting the ball in play, just like that at-bat the other night. He got two strikes against [Josh Johnson] then hit the sacrifice fly to drive in the run. He's a professional hitter.
"I'm more the guy when I get in there, I like to see a pitch here and there. I like to work the count, but also in a situation with a runner or second and third and less than two outs, I'm up there to try and get them in. I'm not up there trying to hit a homer. I'm up in there to get him in with a hit or a double in the gap. So, we're different in our way. But we've both had success."
Helms said he actually spent a season playing with Stairs during winter ball in Mexico. He said they've become friends over the years and doesn't expect Stairs to hang it up anytime soon.
"From playing against him and with him, he's a baseball guru," Helms said. "He's one of those guys that you're probably going to have to rip the jersey off him. He's going to stick around as long as he can. If you have success off the bench, there's always going to be a team that can use you."
Former Marlin Lenny Harris owns the record with most career pinch hits. Harris had 212 in 804 career pinch-hit at-bats. Former Yankee Cliff Johnson owns the pinch-hit home run record with 20.
SENDING COGHLAN DOWN 'A LAST RESORT': Listened to Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez or Jorge Sedano's radio show this morning as I was driving into the stadium and heard Gonzalez say he still hasn't seen Chris Coghlan struggle enough to consider sending him to Triple A.
Gonzalez said Coghlan hasn't show him "signs" of being defeated at the plate, something that would tell him it was time for the second-year player to head back down and work on his swing. Coghlan produced a hit for the fourth consecutive game Tuesday to raise his average to .162 to on the season.
He also struck out three times and now has 21 strikeouts in 74 at-bats this season. Last year, he didn't have that many K's until 109th at-bat, 33 games in.
CARROLL'S BIG THROW... The only reason Brett Carroll started Tuesday's game was because Cody Ross came down with a bad case of the flu. In the end, the Marlins kind of caught a break as Carroll was able to use his strong arm in right field to throw out the Padres Nick Hundley at the plate in the second inning.
It was Carroll's first assist of the season and ninth of his career. But the way the ball was hit to him by Tony Gwynn Jr., Carroll thought he had no chance -- especially since he said he wasn't able to "get much behind it."
Catcher John Baker caught the throw on the right side of the plate and did a good job sweeping his glove to left to tag Hundley for the third out.
"When it was initially hit, I knew it was hit hard. But I was moving to my left and I was deep," Carroll said. "I felt good when I let it go. I knew it had the right trajectory, but it was hit or miss. Usually when I just grab it and throw it is when things happen, not when I try to manipulate it."
> Ross by the way said he's feeling better even though he's not in the lineup.
> Helms won't get an opportunity to pinch hit Wednesday because he's starting for the Marlins at third. Brian Barden is getting his first start at shortstop with Hanley Ramirez getting his first day off this season.
MARLINS LINEUP VS. PADRES: 1. Cameron Maybin, CF; 2. Chris Coghlan LF; 3. Wes Helms 3B; 4. Jorge Cantu 1B; 5. Dan Uggla 2B; 6. Ronny Paulino C; 7. Brett Carroll RF; 8. Brian Barden SS; 9. Nate Robertson P.