It took just 10 pitches. The ninth-inning play-by-play line for the Dodgers read:
0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB.
A Wednesday evening crowd of 31,541 came out to Petco Park to watch the first-place Padres seek their fourth consecutive win. San Diego was tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks atop the National League West, while the Los Angeles Dodgers were a half-game back. Greg Maddux started for San Diego, opposed by Randy Wolf, in his first season with LA after eight with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Maddux faced the minimum through the first four innings. He did allow a leadoff single to Jeff Kent in the second, but Martin grounded into an inning-ending double play after Luis Gonzalez had flied out. Maddux’s teammates gave him a lead in the bottom of the second. Kevin Kouzmanoff sent a line-drive single into left-center to start the inning. Hiram Bocachica doubled through the right side, sending Kouzmanoff to third. Geoff Blum followed with a double down the left-field line, knocking in both runners and giving Maddux a 2-0 advantage. Wolf retired Maddux, Marcus Giles, and Jose Cruz in order to avoid further damage.
The Padres padded their lead in the third. With two outs and Adrian Gonzalez on second (after a single) and Josh Bard on first (walk), Bocachica bashed his second double of the game. Gonzalez scored and Bard held at third base. Up next was Blum, who swung at Wolf’s first offering and lined a single into center field, good for two more runs batted in. San Diego now led, 5-0.
In the top of the fifth, Maddux faltered. Kent swung at the first pitch of the inning and dribbled a weak ball down to third, reaching on an infield single. Luis Gonzalez grounded a ball up the middle for another single, advancing Kent to third. Martin then lifted a fly ball into right and Kent came home. After Andre Ethier lined out to third baseman Kouzmanoff, Tony Abreu roped a ball deep down the left-field line. Gonzalez rounded the bases and was waved home, and Abreu headed for third, but he was gunned down by left fielder Cruz before Gonzalez crossed the plate.
In the seventh, Maddux faced Kent with one out and the Dodgers slugger blasted his ninth homer of the season beyond the wall in left-center, making the score 5-2. Maddux walked the next batter, Luis Gonzalez, and Padres first-year manager Bud Black signaled for a pitching change, bringing in Heath Bell, who made two pitches to Martin, inducing the pitcher’s best friend, a 6-4-3 double play, to end the inning. Scott Linebrink pitched a scoreless eighth for San Diego, and after the Padres were retired in the top of the ninth, the stage was set for history.
The 39-year-old Hoffman strode to the mound to the familiar chimes of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.” The first batter he faced, Nomar Garciaparra, greeted San Diego’s right-hander with a double off the left-center-field wall. Kent sent a weak grounder to short for out number one, while Garciaparra held at second base. When Gonzalez grounded out to second, Garciaparra trotted to third. Martin moved into the batter’s box and Hoffman threw four pitches, the last one getting a “Strike Three!” call from home-plate umpire Jeff Kellogg. Hoffman had earned the milestone save.
Catcher Bard raced to the mound to embrace his closer. The rest of the Padres “converged in the infield before carrying Hoffman toward the dugout.”1 A sign with “500” brightly lit on it was raised onto a platform in beyond the center-field wall. Hoffman tipped his hat to the cheering crowd and then put on a hat with the number “500” on it.
The bottom of the Padres’ lineup did the damage against the Dodgers. Kouzmanoff, Bocachica, and Blum each had two hits. Blum knocked in four runs and Bocochica batted in the fifth tally. Two future Hall of Famers pitched bookends for San Diego. Starter Maddux pitched 6⅓ innings en route to his fifth win of the season, and Hoffman earned the save, his 18th of the 2007 campaign. Wolf took the loss for the Dodgers, his record dropping to 7-4.
Hoffman had spent the last 15 seasons closing games for the Padres. In fact, the converted shortstop2 had pitched for San Diego in all but his first 28 games. (He came into the major leagues with the Florida Marlins in 1993 and was traded to the Padres in June of that season.) This was save number 500 overall, number 498 with the Padres. Both were records. At the end of the 2006 season (September 24), Hoffman had eclipsed Lee Smith’s career mark of 478, when he pitched one shutout inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates, striking out Ryan Doumit and Jose Bautista and retiring Freddy Sanchez on a groundout to end the game and earn his 479th save. He finished the 2006 campaign with 482 saves and was voted the National League’s Fireman of the Year by The Sporting News and the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.
Hoffman, a seven-time All-Star and two-time runner-up for the National League Cy Young Award, said, “I take a lot of pride in being a guy that could be accountable to his team as a player and also as my career progressed, just having the opportunity to be valuable in other capacities.”3 Dodgers skipper Grady Little summed up Hoffman’s accomplishment best: “He’s the definition of a closer. He’s there for them every day and he’s very consistent.”4
New York Yankees star reliever Mariano Rivera broke Hoffman’s career saves record in 2011, the season after Hoffman retired with 601 saves. Rivera finished with 652. Hoffman (1998) is tied for fifth-most saves in a season (53) with Rivera (2004) and Randy Myers (1993).
Hoffman was humble with reporters after the game, saying, “It’s a special moment from an individual standpoint to be at a number that looks a bit different than some of the other guys that have accrued a lot of saves. But our focus is definitely on winning a division and moving deep into the postseason and winning a championship.”5
In reaching this historic mark, Hoffman had blown only 58 saves. That is a conversion rate of 89.6 percent.6
In addition to the sources mentioned in the notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com, and Retrosheet.org.
1 Ben Bolch, “Dodgers Closed Out by Hoffman,” Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2007: 39.
2 Hoffman was drafted as a shortstop in the 11th round of the 1989 draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
3 Dennis Lin, “Hoffman Keeps ‘Trevor Time’ Going,” San Diego Union-Tribune, February 3, 2014. Found online at https://sandiegouniontribune.com/sports/the-52/sdut-52-trevor-hoffman-padres-saves-leader-mlb-2014feb03-story.html.
5 “Hoffman Gets 500th Save as Padres Win,” newson6.com, June 7, 2007. Found online at https://newson6.com/story/7662107/hoffman-gets-500th-save-as-padres-win.
6 For his entire career, Hoffman converted 601 of 677 opportunities, for a save rate of 88.8 percent.