Padres sweep Giants, win sixth straight
Garland pitches seven-plus stellar innings for first victory
SAN DIEGO -- Success hasn't spoiled the Padres, who on Wednesday certainly afforded themselves a few moments of self-satisfaction as one of the hottest teams in the Major Leagues managed to get even hotter.
Six consecutive victories will do wonders for the confidence of a team, especially for one generally pegged to finish at the bottom of the National League West standings. Still, the Padres weren't in a mood to party.
Instead, the tenor in the home clubhouse minutes after a 5-2 victory over the Giants on a blustery day at PETCO Park was one of restrained enthusiasm, as evidenced by the tone in the voice of their usually animated closer, Heath Bell.
"We're not excited we're in first place. We're just excited we won a ballgame," Bell said. "We're not jumping up and down. We're not trying to go to the playoffs in April."
Still, these are pretty heady days for the Padres (9-6), who completed a 7-2 homestand on Wednesday with their second consecutive series sweep, the latest victim being the Giants, who rolled into San Diego in first place in the NL West and left utterly frustrated.
The Padres, who are off on Thursday before opening a three-game series in Cincinnati on Friday, got seven-plus strong innings from Jon Garland (1-2). Garland got 14 ground-ball outs and allowed six hits with two walks and one strikeout.
Garland's outing was just the latest in a line of strong outings by Padres starting pitchers. In their last 11 games, eight of them victories, the Padres pitching staff has a 2.25 ERA. That includes several strong outings from the bullpen, which certainly added to that run of success.
"In this park, in any park, that's what you want," Garland said of the ground balls, a sure sign that he was able to bury his fastball and changeup in the bottom of the strike zone.
"I put myself in good pitchers' counts and not hitters' counts. It's all about executing."
There was just enough hitting Wednesday, as Adrian Gonzalez hit a solo home run and Nick Hundley added a two-run home run for a team that is winning with its pitching, defense and a continued aggressive push on the bases.
"We played good baseball all around, pitched well, defensively, ran the bases well. I think our hitting will improve as we move forward, but I'm encouraged by the overall play of the group," Padres manager Bud Black said. "There's a lot of great team play going on right now."
The Padres started this homestand with a bang, scoring 17 runs against the Braves. It wasn't until the D-backs came to PETCO Park when the Padres really began to take flight, and when their pitchers really started to flourish.
"This turn around the rotation, every guy threw well," Black said.
It wasn't just pitching.
The defense, after a rocky season-opening week and a 2-4 mark after trips to Arizona and Colorado, was crisper during the homestand. Gonzalez turned a nifty 3-6-3 double play in the second inning. Tony Gwynn saved an extra-base hit when he made a diving grab of a line drive off the bat of Pablo Sandoval in the sixth inning.
The Padres even pulled off a successful squeeze in the sixth inning, as Everth Cabrera got down a bunt as Gwynn raced home with a run.
Just like the homestand, little went wrong for the Padres on Wednesday.
"We had tremendous pitching the entire homestand. It's nice to be able to win games like this when we don't swing the bats well," said Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who had two hits to raise his average to .368.
"You can't rely on one aspect. To be a good team, you have got to be a complete team."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.