Richard, big flies power Padres to win
Lefty goes six shutout innings supported by pair of blasts
SAN DIEGO -- Yes, it's one of the biggest cliches in all of sports: you've got to beat the teams you're supposed to beat. But it's cliche because it's true, especially for a San Diego club that was hoping to ride the momentum from a seven-win road trip and continue to solidify itself as a top team in the National League.
The D-backs were probably the perfect team for the Padres to come home to following their longest road trip thus far this season, and San Diego continued its dominance over the last-place D-backs -- a team that it should beat -- in its home ballpark.
The Padres blanked Arizona, 5-0, on Tuesday before a crowd of 20,075 at PETCO Park to improve their record to 7-0 against their division rival at home this season.
"Coming back home and with the day off [on Monday], everyone's a little refreshed after that road trip where we made it happen, but I think took a little toll on us," said Padres outfielder Will Venable, who finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. "[Heading into the] end of August and coming into September, it's time to grind it out and there can't be any letdowns."
With the victory, San Diego also matched last season's win total at 75, putting a numerical stamp on what has continued to be one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season.
But don't tell that to Padres manager Bud Black. For him, victory No. 75 doesn't hold any extra significance.
"[We'll] try to get 76 tomorrow," Black said. "I don't think about those things."
The Padres (75-49) feasted on Arizona starter Rodrigo Lopez, who gave up nine hits and five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, while San Diego starter Clayton Richard tossed six shutout innings despite allowing more walks (five) than hits (three) to earn his career-best fifth victory in a row.
"I was able to mix it up enough and throw enough strikes to keep them off balance enough and just really trust our defense," said Richard, who upped his record to 12-5. "Our defense has been playing great, and [I needed to] understand that if I was going to get the ball over the plate, that they were going to make the plays."
Both Richard and Black also mentioned the game plan concocted by pitching coach Darren Balsley, which focused on Richard providing a heavy dose of fastballs to Arizona hitters, as a big key to a victory where Richard often had to work out of trouble after putting runners on base in every inning but the second.
San Diego cashed in four of its five runs via the long ball, as Venable and Chris Denorfia each clubbed two-run homers to help the Padres take a 4-0 lead. Venable's blast to right came on a 2-0 slider in the second inning before Denorfia followed suit when he sent the first pitch of his at-bat in the fourth to the right-field stands.
"[It was] a little slider down," Venable said. "[Lopez is] a guy that's not going to beat with you with the fastball, so he's going to try to do some other things, especially when you're ahead in the count. I like the slider, he ended up leaving one over the plate, and I was able to put a swing on it."
Ryan Ludwick, who came into the game batting .402 with runners in scoring position, added an RBI single in the fifth when he drove the ball to center with one out to bring home Miguel Tejada, who had doubled to the gap in left-center to start the inning.
In all, Arizona (49-77) could not capitalize on six walks drawn partly because it struck out 11 times. Richard fanned eight of those batters, matching his second-highest total this season.
The D-backs' best chances to score came when they got runners on first and second with two outs in the third and fifth innings, but Richard wiggled out of both jams when he struck out Chris Young in the third and got Kelly Johnson to fly out to left in the fifth.
"It was tough, because when we got a man on it was with two outs, so he had a chance to get out of a jam quick," D-backs catcher Miguel Montero said. "And then he works really fast, so he keeps you off balance. It was like 'get the ball, throw the ball.'"
The Padres bullpen tandem of Ernesto Frieri, Joe Thatcher, Tim Stauffer and Edward Mujica combined for three scoreless innings to preserve the shutout.
In the context of this season, Tuesday's victory doesn't necessarily hold any more weight than, say, victory No. 1 or victory No. 52. But in the grander scheme of things, it does provide a bit of a benchmark to help show the dramatic turnaround the Padres have made in 2010 as they continue their journey to capture the NL West crown.
"If you want to look at those kinds of numbers, obviously it shows how much we've progressed," Venable said. "But that was last year. We planned coming into the season to get more wins than that, so it's nice to be on track."
Gina Mizell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.