Burnett steals Padres’ thunder

We had today’s Daily Pitch all mapped out in advance.

The plan was to tell you all about a National League team that isn’t getting the attention of the Phillies and Cubs, but one that’s sneaking up on people.

Yup, this Daily Pitch was going to be all about the ugliest ducklings in the NL West, the San Diego Padres, who rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat Tom Glavine on Thursday, then pulled out their 11th win in 14 games on Rickey Henderson’s RBI in the 10th inning on Friday.

Bruce Bochy’s San Diego Padres, winners of four consecutive series and above .500 despite lacking the panache of division rivals like the Dodgers and D’backs.

The San Diego Padres, who were hoping Saturday night’s starter, Wascar Serrano, would become their ninth pitcher to post a victory this season … A team whose only four-game winner (Adam Eaton) has an ERA above 6.00.

We were prepared to talk about Phil Nevin, hitting .330 with 28 RBI and slugging .651 … and maybe young catcher Ben Davis, who went into Saturday batting .310.

We were going to mention Ryan Klesko, his two homers on Friday and his $7.5 million, two-year extension signed this week.

We could have chatted about what it means to the Pads to have 41-year-old Tony Gwynn, back on the DL with hamstring woes … Or at least about Tony Gwynn’s mom, this being Mother’s Day. Did you know that Gwynn collected both his 2,000th and 3,000th career hits on his mom’s birthday?

And speaking of 3,000th hits, we certainly would have discussed Henderson and his recent 13-game hitting streak that has him sitting at 2,937, only six hits behind Frank Robinson for 28th on the all-time hit list.

Oh, so many ways we could have approached the Padres had Florida right-hander A.J. Burnett not spoiled it all by pitching a no-hitter against them Saturday night.

Mind you, this was not your run-of-the-mill no-no. The Padres, in fact, had chances in this 3-0 game, primarily because Burnett walked nine and hit a batter.

And much as Hideo Nomo’s had Mike Lansing’s defensive gem to thank for saving his no-hitter in April, Burnett had his defense to credit in this one.

Second baseman Luis Castillo made a nifty play, ranging behind the second base bag to rob Bubba Trammell in the sixth. Former Padres outfielder Eric Owens made a fine running catch in foul ground to flag a Davis drive, deep to right in the eighth inning.

But the play of the night came in the seventh, when shortstop Alex Gonzalez got to an Alex Arias grounder in the hole and first baseman Derrek Lee came off the bag to the home plate side, fielded the off-target throw and swept the tag onto the foot of Arias.

“Defense helped me out a lot tonight,” admitted Burnett who threw only 65 of his 128 pitches for strikes in pitching the first no-hitter at San Diego since 1970.

Slowed by a stress fracture in his foot, it was just his second start this season. “I never thought in my second start back I’d be throwing a no-hitter,” he said after retiring the side in order in the ninth, a harmless fly to right, Santiago Perez on strikes, then Nevin on an infield popup to end it.

Burnett, 24, lived primarily on one pitch. “He was out there with a fastball,” said manager John Boles.

But he moved that fastball around and was effectively wild. In the fourth inning, he came too far inside and broke the thumb of San Diego second baseman Damian Jackson.

We were going to tell you about Jackson, too. He leads the Padres with 10 stolen bases.

Alas, it was all about Burnett last night.

“He made his pitches when he needed to,” said catcher Charles Johnson, who has caught all three no-hitters (Kevin Brown, Al Leiter are the others) in Marlins history.

So, telling you about Bobby Jones and Kotsay and Trevor Hoffman will just have to wait.

A.J. Burnett stole San Diego’s thunder.

Below the radar: It will be a devastating blow to the Phillies if All-Star catcher Mike Lieberthal is lost for any significant length of time. Initial reports were that Lieberthal suffered sprained knee ligaments when he attempted to scamper back to first base and was picked off by Brian Anderson Saturday in Arizona.

Lieberthal’s injury makes Johnny Estrada the man of the hour.

Estrada, who hit .385 in spring training and was batting .290 with 16 RBI at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, has been summoned. Although Gary Bennett, Lieberthal’s current understudy, scored the winning run in the 10th inning Saturday, look for Estrada to be pressed into immediate service.

“Let’s put it this way,” Philly manager Larry Bowa said. “We’re not bringing the kid here to watch.”

Lieberthal had X-rays, which were negative, on Saturday. He’s scheduled for an MRI to further assess the damage which appears to affect at least two ligaments.

Meanwhile, the Phillies put another victory in the bank, Saturday, even though two homers by Reggie Sanders and the 17th of the season by Luis Gonzalez enabled Arizona to wipe out a 5-0 deficit.

The wild, wild (AL) East: Talk about redemption: Hours after their ninth-inning snafu on the bases snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, Trot Nixon (four hits, including a homer) and Carl Everett (three hits) helped support Pedro Martinez in Boston’s 9-3 victory against Oakland.

Martinez (5-0) did surrender his first home run of the season and saw his ERA soar from 1.44 to 1.74. It didn’t matter as Dante Bichette hit in his 12th consecutive game and the Sox collected a season-high 19 hits, ending Oakland’s four-game winning streak.

Boston needed a win to keep pace with New York, which improved to 6-0 against Baltimore this season. “They’re the world champions and there’s nothing I can see that leads me to believe they’re ready to relinquish it anytime soon,” said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, whose team is 15-16 vs. the rest of the AL.

It was Derek Jeter Growth Chart Giveaway Day at Yankee Stadium and Jeter hit the tie-breaking three-run homer in the eighth inning of New York’s 8-5 win. Jeter said he’s relieved that his sister, Sharlee, 21, who is battling Hodgkin’s disease, completed her chemotherapy regimen on Friday and appears to be cancer-free.

Toronto wiped out a 7-0 deficit against Seattle and Freddy Garcia, but still suffered its fifth consecutive defeat, 11-7, as the Mariners opened an 11-game lead in the AL West. Ichiro Suzuki extended his hitting streak to 18 games with four hits and Edgar Martinez went 4-for-5. By the way, the record hitting streak for a rookie is 30 games, held by Nomar Garciaparra.

And, how bad can it get in Tampa Bay, where the 10-26 Devil Rays are denying they’re having problems meeting payroll this month?

So bad that manager Hal McRae was ejected before Saturday’s first pitch. McRae came out of the dugout to speak to third base ump Mike Winters, continuing a saga from Friday night when Winters rang up Ben Grieve on a checked swing to end the game.

And it got worse … The Devil Rays fell behind Cleveland 5-0 in the first inning and were blanked, 8-0. Chuck Finley pitched seven strong innings and Ellis Burks and Marty Cordova homered once again for the white-hot Indians.

Chatter: Burnett wasn’t the only young pitcher to excel on Saturday. Victor Santos, making his first start for the Tigers, allowed one hit in six innings as Detroit clawed to the .500 mark with a 4-1 victory over Anaheim. At 17-17, Detroit is 9-2 vs. the AL West … Alex Rodriguez became the sixth player to hit his 200th home run before his 26th birthday — then added his 201st … The Cardinals look to complete a 7-0 homestand on Sunday following Saturday’s 5-2 victory over the Cubs. Their odds seem pretty good. They’ve beaten the Cubs in 10 consecutive games at Busch Stadium (17 of the last 20). On Saturday, J.D. Drew hit his 13th homer and Albert Pujols hit his 12th to support the pitching of Matt Morris (5-2) … What happens when you strand 15 runners? More than likely you lose, as was the case for the Pirates. Milwaukee’s Jeromy Burnitz delivered the winning hit in the 12th inning for a 5-4 victory … Deion Sanders kept Cincinnati’s string of games scoring a run alive with his RBI single in the first game of a doubleheader against Houston. Unfortunately for the Reds, Sanders also lost Lance Berkman’s fly in the sun, resulting in an RBI double and the deciding run in a 2-1 loss. The Reds came back to take the nightcap 5-4, even though Berkman (previously 1-for-27 as a pinch hitter) delivered a game-tying three run homer in the top of the ninth … Rich Aurilia, leading NL batters at .389, had his third four-hit game of the season. … Colorado, which expects to get Jeff Cirillo back in action early this week.