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SD@STL: Headley scores the go-ahead run in the 11th

ST. LOUIS -- A roster flush with fresh faces Thursday managed to produce something so eerily similar to the Padres' blissful blueprint of 2010 that it was almost like all those offseason roster moves never really occurred at all.

But they did, and the evidence was everywhere at Busch Stadium, as the Padres quieted a sold-out Cardinals crowd of 46,368 by winning the kind of game San Diego often won after a year ago, a victory heavily rooted in its pitching, defense and aggressiveness on the bases.

"It was nice to win a game in the same fashion we did last year ... even with a different group of players," general manager Jed Hoyer said of a roster with eight players back from Opening Day in 2010.

The contributions from the new guys were apparent during the Padres' 5-3 victory in 11 innings over the Cardinals. Really, they were almost impossible to miss. And as it turned out, San Diego needed everyone one of them.

There was the dazzling catch in center field in the first inning by Cameron Maybin to rob Ryan Theriot of a hit. Later, Maybin, dogged all day by various cramps, saved the Padres with a game-tying home run with two outs in the ninth inning.

"There's some juice in his bat," starter Tim Stauffer said of Maybin, who left the game for a pinch-runner in the 11th inning because of the cramps.

"I had a lot of adrenaline and I didn't hydrate as much as I could have," said Maybin, who noted that he plans on playing Saturday.

That new middle-infield combination of second baseman Orlando Hudson and shortstop Jason Bartlett, veterans brought in to improve the defense, had a hand in four double plays, three alone off the bat of Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols.

Two new relievers, Pat Neshek and Chad Qualls, each tossed a scoreless inning. Neshek, and his funky sidearm delivery, picked up his first victory with the Padres. The work by Neshek and Qualls made it possible for manager Bud Black to save All-Star closer Heath Bell for the final three outs of the game.

"The new guys were great," Black said.

The old ones weren't too shabby, either.

In that decisive 11th inning, Chase Headley dropped a soft single into right field with two outs. That brought up Maybin, who two innings earlier, and with the Padres down to their final out, jumped on a first-pitch curveball for a game-tying home run off Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin.

"I honestly didn't think he was going to be hacking first pitch," Franklin said.

At any rate, Headley, standing on first base, heard first-base coach Dave Roberts tell him that right fielder John Jay was playing fairly deep. So when Maybin singled between first and second base, Headley ran hard for third base.

Headley made it there easily, but he didn't stay long.

The return throw from Jay into the infield and to Theriot bounced and Headley, alertly, took off for the plate. The throw was off the mark and the Padres, who had two hits to show for the first seven innings, had their first lead of the game.

"I saw the ball was going to bounce, so I took a little shuffle just to see if it was going to kick away from [Theriot] or not," Headley said. "When it did, I went. I just took a chance and it worked out."

This kind of aggressiveness wasn't happenstance. This was, at least during the first half of last season, how the Padres set themselves up for runs and how they bolted to a lofty first-place perch in the National League West for much of the season.

Against the Cardinals, it was the formula that allowed the Padres to score enough runs to win.

"That's something we talk about ... keeping your head up and watching the ball," Black said.

It happened in the fourth inning as the Padres scored their first run off Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter. Will Venable doubled to left to start the inning and then moved up to third base on a ground ball to the left side by Bartlett, a risky play by any measure.

Venable would then score easily when Hudson lifted a fly ball to center field.

One inning later, Ryan Ludwick walked and stole second base. The throw beat him there, but the ball came out of Skip Schumaker's glove on the tag. Ludwick was then able to score easily from second base on Nick Hundley's double off the left-field fence.

"He just hit the ball perfect, like with a catcher. When there's a ball at home plate, you try to knock it out," Schumaker said. "It's a good play by him and not so good for us."

The defensive element, vital to the success of a team that won 90 games a year ago, was prevalent as well, as there were an abundance of balls in play, especially with a ground-ball pitcher like Stauffer on the mound.

Stauffer, making his first Opening Day start, allowed two runs on nine hits over his six innings. He also got eight ground-ball outs, which his teammates were able to convert into four double plays.

Before Thursday, Pujols had never grounded into three double plays in the same game.

"A couple of DPs they turned weren't routine, but they made it look easy," Stauffer said of the work done by Bartlett, Hudson and first baseman Brad Hawpe.

In the fifth inning, Bartlett ranged far to his right to get a ball hit by Pujols, throwing back across his body to start a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Stauffer helped himself in the sixth inning with a defensive play of his own after yielding singles to Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman to start the inning. But Stauffer managed to get out of trouble -- not with a double play but by picking Holliday off second base.

"I had a feeling there was something on ... like a hit-and-run or a steal," Stauffer said.

Two outs later, the inning was over and Stauffer had successfully navigated himself out of a potentially thorny situation.

"Our defense was huge today," Black said. "The pitching and defense goes hand-in-hand. The guys we have don't miss a step."

That apparently holds true for the newcomers as much as it does the holdovers. Comments