video thumbnail

ATL@SD: Luebke fans six in five scoreless innings

SAN DIEGO -- There's probably no point in trying to quantify the number of times Mike Adams has picked up his Padres' teammates by tossing a scoreless inning of relief late in games or how he's helped preserve tenuous leads more often than even he can count.

On Sunday, the Padres tried a different approach as they picked up Adams by scoring all four of their runs in the bottom of the eighth inning on their way to a 4-1 victory over the Braves in front of a crowd of 24,048 at PETCO Park.

"The way that they came up big against one of the best relievers in baseball ... that was huge," Adams said.

Adams, who is regarded as one of the top late-inning relief specialists in the game, gave up an unearned run in the top of the eighth inning and appeared to be in danger of being the pitcher of record in a game where runs -- though certainly not opportunities -- were scarce.

But the Padres (34-45) -- who have won consecutive series against the Red Sox and the Braves -- came back in the bottom of the inning by essentially tormenting Braves relief pitcher Jonny Venters (4-1), who has late-inning credentials as impressive as Adams.

A half-inning after the Braves (44-35) scored the first run of the game off Adams when second baseman Orlando Hudson and then right fielder Will Venable bobbled balls on separate plays that factored in the Braves run, the Padres dug in to face Venters and his 0.56 ERA in the bottom of the inning.

The inning started with Venters walking Chris Denorfia. Cameron Maybin then reached on a swinging bunt, a play just to the third base side of the mound that Venters said that he had trouble getting a grip on. San Diego manager Bud Black then went to his bench, opting for reserve catcher Rob Johnson.

Johnson, who said he prides himself in his bunting, dropped down a bunt down the third base line that went far enough for Chipper Jones to vacate the base. Venters got the ball and threw it to first base to get Johnson, but he had successfully moved the runners along.

"I've never doubted my confidence in it. ... It's something that I've worked on hard," said Johnson, who had a drag bunt for a hit on the Padres last road trip. "Being a defensive catcher, I feel like that's [bunting] something I need to do."

After an intentional walk to Jesus Guzman, leadoff hitter Will Venable popped up a bunt to Venters for the second out. That's when Jason Bartlett kept the inning alive with a hit, an infield single that drove in the tying run.

Hudson, who struck out with a runner on third base and one out in the eighth inning, then lined a two-run single up the middle for a 3-1 lead. Finally, Chase Headley followed with a RBI single for a 4-1 lead.

"We worked some counts, did some situational things. Chase added on there at the end with a knock. Orlando's obviously was a big hit," Black said. "We strung some good at-bats together against Venters, who has been very tough on the league this year."

The final tally of the inning included four hits, two walks and one sacrifice bunt.

"That's something we need to do ... do the little things like that to win games," Bartlett said. "We're not always going to have that many hits [11]."

Closer Heath Bell then worked a perfect ninth inning for his 20th save, making a winner of Adams (3-1).

Long gone by that point, though certainly not forgotten, was Padres pitcher Cory Luebke, who made his first start of the season after serving the team in long relief until now. The left-hander, working without the benefit of his best slider, struck out six and allowed one hit over five innings before leaving at the 75-pitch mark.

"I felt good. The first inning, I got the jitters out," said Luebke, who struck out Schafer, Jason Heyward and Chipper Jones, all looking, in that first inning.

Luebke didn't use his slider often, a pitch that has served him well recently pitching in relief, but he was able to command his fastball and be aggressive with it.

"He was nasty today. In the first inning, he hit every spot. All of those pitches could have gone either way. But they're perfect pitches," Schafer said. "He came in and pretty much shut us down. I didn't even feel like I had good swings against him. He did a fabulous job."

San Diego pitchers combined to allow two hits, the fewest hits they've allowed since June 10, 2010 against the Mets. Rookie Josh Spence got four outs and Chad Qualls struck out the only two batters he faced.

MLB.com Comments