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Luebke flirts with no-no, fans nine in win

DENVER -- On several occasions this season, Padres pitcher Cory Luebke has talked of being "stubborn" with his fastball, often being too reliant on it even though his secondary pitches, like his slider and changeup, have come a long way this season.

"Coming up all through the Minors, that's kind of what got me here," Luebke said of his fastball. "But my offspeed pitches have developed this season.

"When I get in a big situation, I need to use my slider or changeup more. Not to try and trick [hitters] but to show them I've got something else."

On Monday, though, Luebke's fastball carried him a long way, as he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of the Padres' 8-2 win over the Rockies before 27,450 at Coors Field.

Luebke (6-9) lost his no-hitter with two outs in the inning when Mark Ellis drove a 3-1 -- you guessed it -- fastball over the wall in center field.

That would be the only hit that the Padres (66-88) allowed on the night, as they took the first game of their three-game set with the Rockies (70-83).

Luebke left after seven innings, having allowed two runs with three walks while tying his career-high with nine strikeouts. He threw 119 pitches and would have surely tested the patience of manager Bud Black had he gone much deeper in the game with the no-hitter.

"Yes, it would have been a tough decision. I think there would have been a [pitch] limit at some point," Black said, smiling.

Luebke used his fastball early, which was both good and bad. The rookie left-hander was able to get outs with it, but because he works up in the strike zone, the Rockies fouled off a lot of pitches. He also found himself behind in the count on numerous occasions.

"He didn't throw anything other than his fastball a lot. It just shows what you can do if you can command your fastball," Ellis said.

Luebke, who lowered his ERA to 3.23 this season, kept on getting outs in bunches with the fastball, though he did use his slider and changeup more later on in the game.

"What I liked most was when he fell behind, and he fell behind a lot, he stayed stubborn and kept using his fastball," San Diego pitching coach Darren Balsley said. "... He knew that his stuff was good and he decided to stick with it.

"It's pretty nice to know you can throw your fastball and get outs with it."

As for the no-hitter, Luebke said it crossed his mind, but it wasn't something that he gave much attention to.

"I can't say I thought too much about it," he said. "... There was still a lot of game left."

There was another obvious benefit to using his fastball early and often on Monday, as he wanted to put the ball in play after the Padres raced out to a 7-0 lead after four innings as Rockies pitcher Kevin Millwood (3-3) struggled mightily.

The Padres scored one run in the second inning and then two more in the third. But they broke the game open in the fourth, chasing Millwood.

Leadoff hitter Cameron Maybin hit a two-run home run to right field, his ninth of the season. Aaron Cunningham also had a two-run home run in the inning.

Cunningham wasn't going to be in the starting lineup, but first baseman Jesus Guzman was scratched with a sore neck.

The eight runs the Padres scored were the most since they scored 14 runs against the Marlins on Aug. 20.

Maybin had two hits, including a triple, and stole his 38th base of the season. Jeremy Hermida reached base three times on a single, walk and triple.

But this was clearly a night for pitching -- and not just Luebke. Black praised the outing by reliever Ernesto Frieri, who tossed two clean innings, striking out three of the six batters he faced.

As for Luebke, who started the season in the bullpen before moving into the rotation, he showed why the Padres are so high on him for the future.

"He's a great worker," Black said. "I think that Cory is going to be a fine pitcher in this league and for this organization."

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