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Stairs’ pinch-hit blast sets MLB record

August 24, 2010

MILWAUKEE — It was just his third home run of the season, but Matt Stairs’ two-run eighth-inning blast meant a lot more than that, and it did a lot more than simply cut the Padres’ deficit to one run in an eventual 6-5 loss to the Brewers on Saturday.

Stairs’ towering home run was his 21st career pinch-hit homer, which established a new Major League record. After tying the record on July 7, Stairs passed Cliff Johnson on Saturday, belting a 1-1 fastball from Brewers reliever Kameron Loe just beyond the seats in right field.

“It’s a great accomplishment, it really is, for a couple reasons,” manager Bud Black said. “Matt has maintained a level of play for a long time. Also, one of the hardest roles on a team is the pinch-hitter.”

Given Stairs’ history with the Brewers, it was only fitting for his record-breaking home run to come in Milwaukee. Stairs spent one season with the club in 2002, joining all-time pinch-hits leader Lenny Harris on the roster. He hit just one pinch-hit home run that season, however, as he started 75 games and got just 29 pinch-hit opportunities.

Stairs also hit a pinch-hit blast against the Brewers last season as a member of the Phillies — one Brewers fans, and starter Dave Bush, likely remember. On April 23, in Philadelphia, Stairs came to the plate with one out in the eighth and his solo homer off the right-field foul pole broke up Bush’s no-hitter.

Before the season, Stairs considered retirement until receiving an offer to sign a Minor League contract with the Padres. In 72 at-bats this season for San Diego, Stairs has 15 hits, with three home runs, 12 RBIs and 26 strikeouts. His home run Saturday put him two behind Brewers utility man Joe Inglett for the Major League lead in pinch-hits this season.

“I was never really an everyday guy,” Stairs said in Spring Training. “I think that only two years I was an everyday guy. I think it’s all mental; if you accept your job of being a pinch-hitter, you’re going to do well at it.

“I enjoy coming off the bench in the late innings. I love it. I don’t want to be an everyday guy anymore. I’m 42. It’s for the younger guys.”

After 18 seasons spent with 12 different Major League clubs, Stairs’ 262nd career home run made him the all-time leader in pinch-hit homers.

Yet, just as a pinch-hit role takes more of a team-first mentality, Stairs was unavailable to comment after the game, likely to keep the spotlight off himself after the Padres’ loss.

“He’s taken that role now for the last number of years in his career,” Black said of Stairs’ pinch-hitting. “To be able to perform at the level to break a Major League record, it’s an outstanding accomplishment.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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