SAN FRANCISCO -- A skittish start and a suspenseful finish kept the Padres plenty busy Tuesday at AT&T Park, though it was the "spike" that perhaps generated the most buzz in the visiting clubhouse after the game.
And the home clubhouse as well.
Before Padres closer Heath Bell worked his way through another tense ninth inning to put the finishing touches on the Padres' 5-3 victory over the Giants, reliever Chad Qualls found himself in a fix with Andres Torres in the seventh inning.
With the Padres (40-47) clinging to a two-run lead, Qualls and Torres locked up for a 16-pitch at-bat that saw the Giants' leadoff hitter foul off 11 pitches as Qualls fed him a diet of sliders and sinkers, an at-bat that ultimately ended with a walk.
"A tremendous at-bat by Torres, and Chad gave him everything he had. Chad kept coming at him and making pitches," said Padres manager Bud Black. "It was a great battle."
Torres stole second base and then moved to third base when Brandon Crawford grounded out. Pablo Sandoval, who had a hit earlier to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, came to the plate as the potential tying run.
Only Sandoval didn't get much of a chance, as a Qualls sinker trickled away from catcher Nick Hundley, just enough for Torres to think he had a shot at scoring. Torres and Qualls converged on the plate at the same time as Hundley flipped the ball to his pitcher.
"I kind of jogged in at first because I wasn't sure he was going to go," Qualls said. "But I kind of sold out right there and could have taken spikes. I wasn't going to let him score."
What Qualls couldn't accomplish earlier in the at-bat he finally managed to do to end the inning, as he blocked the plate and applied a tag to Torres. That's when Qualls stood up and spiked the ball while letting loose with a guttural yell.
"I kind of lost my mind out there," Qualls said. "It was adrenaline. This is a big series for us."
Torres felt like Qualls was trying to show him up and said he didn't appreciate the spiking of the ball after their collision at the plate.
"That's not professional. One thing is, I don't believe in making a show on the field," Torres said. "I always said, I respect everybody in this game. But those kinds of things happen.
"Pablo was hitting. I should have stayed. I thought the ball went back. I thought I had a shot. But I didn't."
From there, Mike Adams worked a scoreless eighth inning and Bell worked through a bit of drama of his own, allowing two hits to start the ninth, before settling down to record his 26th save of the season in 27 attempts.
In Monday's victory over the Giants, Bell allowed a run in the ninth inning before getting the save. This time, it didn't get that far -- though the inning was still suspenseful.
"I got the job done and didn't give up a run. I guess I was a little better than yesterday," Bell said.
So were his teammates who, despite falling behind 2-0 in the first inning to San Francisco's Matt Cain (7-5), stuck around long enough to put together a three-run sixth inning with Cameron Maybin knocking in two runs with a triple and Anthony Rizzo adding an RBI single to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead.
San Diego's Tim Stauffer went into Tuesday's game having allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his previous five starts. Stauffer had also completed seven or more innings in those starts.
That particular statistic was put in jeopardy early, as Stauffer needed 32 pitches alone to get out of the first inning, surrendering two runs on four hits. Not all of the balls that fell for hits were crushed, and an error by second baseman Orlando Hudson didn't help.
"The first inning could have gotten ugly, but we battled back," Stauffer said.
But Stauffer (5-5) allowed one hit over his last three innings to get the ball and the lead to the Padres bullpen, starting with Qualls' wild seventh inning.
"The last three innings were solid. He had good stuff the whole night. The difference was the Giants got back in counts and got some hits. They had some baserunners," Black said. "I really liked the way he finished.
"He deserved that. He battled."
Black could have easily been talking about the way his team finished, too. A day after the Padres defeated Tim Lincecum, they beat Cain, who also is headed for the All-Star Game next week.
Now two games into this four-game series against the Giants (48-39), the Padres are eight games back of first place in the National League West for the first time since June 13.
"Any time we can take games from them, we cut one game off their lead," Qualls said.