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COL@SD: Richard strikes out eight over seven innings

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres had chances. Lots of them.

There was the first inning, when the Padres had runners on second and third with two outs. They followed that with a strikeout. Then San Diego had runners on first and second with two outs in the second inning. No result there.

The Padres stranded a runner on second base in the third inning, and killed a leadoff double in the fourth inning, when the Rockies turned a fly ball into a double play by catching the tagging runner.

But perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in Monday's 3-0 loss to the Rockies came in the eighth inning, when Jorge Cantu struck out with runners on first and second and one out after an eight-pitch battle with Colorado pitcher Rafael Betancourt.

"That was a good battle," Padres manager Bud Black said. "[Cantu] fell behind 0-2 and then worked back to even in the count. He took some good swings. Betancourt had to work awful hard, then just got a fastball up a little bit out of the zone and Jorge swung through."

Eric Patterson walked in the next at-bat to load the bases with two outs. Still, nothing. In total, the Padres left 11 runners on base and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

"We had some baserunners through the hit and through the walk, but we just couldn't break through, couldn't get that big hit," Black said. "We had a couple opportunities for some two-out knocks, just couldn't get them tonight."

With the loss, the 16,838 in attendance at PETCO Park witnessed the 10th shutout against the Padres (27-34) this season.

The frustrating thing about it was that starter Clayton Richard had one of his better outings.

"We've been swinging the bats well," said catcher Kyle Phillips, who went 1-for-2. "I mean, we got nine hits tonight. It wasn't like we were getting two-hit. You've got to credit their guy for making pitches. I thought Clayton's stuff was really good, but the bottom line is, you can't win if you can't score."

Phillips hit that one on the money. Richard (2-7) was good. His fastball, usually around 90 mph, was hitting the guns between 92 and 94. San Diego's big left-hander threw seven innings and gave up one run on five hits. He struck out a season-high eight batters and issued three walks, though none of them turned into runs.

The only run Richard did give up was on an infield single by Troy Tulowitzki in the first inning that knocked in Chris Nelson from third base. After the second inning, Richard said he got in a groove.

"I felt like the stuff was there and it was pretty good," Richard said. "Kyle did a great job behind the plate calling the game. We got on the same page kind of after the first inning and were able to cruise and get quick outs after that."

But the Rockies (28-31) got a good start out of Clayton Mortensen as well. The right-hander (2-3) pitched six innings and gave up five hits -- including a single in the first that extended Chase Headley's hitting streak to 16 games -- while striking out three.

What really did the Padres in wasn't Mortensen's consistency or the consistency of any other reliever the Rockies threw on the mound. They weren't throwing darts constantly. The Rockies just threw them when it counted.

"I relied on my off-speed stuff early on and was able to get some big strikeouts when I needed to," Mortensen said. "Changeup was really good, slider was good. Later in the game, my fastball came around and I was able to get a couple of ground balls early in the counts, so that was something to work on."

The Rockies tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth inning off reliever Ernesto Frieri. Ty Wigginton led off with a double and came home on Seth Smith's triple to left-center field, and Chris Iannetta singled to left-center to score Smith.

Those two runs cleared the way for Huston Street to retire the last three Padre batters for his 16th save of the season.

"You're always looking for more runs throughout the game, but especially late," Smith said. "You want to give yourself a more comfortable lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Fortunately, I got a ball to hit and I was able to drive it."

After the game, Richard said he's always frustrated with a loss no matter how close the score is. But he also said he doesn't expect the loss to affect the Padres, who, all else considered, have been playing better the past two weeks.

"That's how baseball is," Richard said. "We've been playing some pretty good baseball as of late and I think that's going to continue to happen. We had a rough night at the plate, and that happens as well. So we'll bounce back and I think we'll continue a streak of good baseball."

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