Stauffer, Tejada help lift Padres back into first
Righty fires six strong innings; veteran belts 300th homer
LOS ANGELES -- For five months this season, fair or unfair, the story line best associated with Tim Stauffer's name had to do with the self-diagnosis he performed using his iPhone in May to detect what later became an emergency appendectomy.
Since then, though, Stauffer has carved a different and far more notable name for himself for the way he has pitched since jumping into the starting rotation earlier this month, with his latest start doing nothing to diminish his standing.
Stauffer allowed one run over six innings Wednesday and Miguel Tejada hit his 300th career home run to help the Padres to a 3-1 victory over the Dodgers before a crowd of 33,728 at Dodger Stadium, a victory that allowed the Padres to jump back into first place in the National League West.
"It was a big win, a good team win," said Stauffer, who allowed three hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
The Padres, now 5-4 on this 10-game road trip, are a half-game ahead of the Giants in the division.
To be sure, with the Giants, Braves and Rockies losing, this was a good day for the Padres (85-66), who got a handful of significant performances on Wednesday and not just from the right arm of Stauffer, who is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in four starts since Sept. 6.
"Not many pitches are off the mark," Padres manager Bud Black said. "That's what we have seen in the four starts. It's been an extension of how he's pitched all season."
Consider what else occurred.
Closer Heath Bell earned his career-best 43rd save of the season, surpassing the 42 he had a year ago in his first season as a Major League closer. It was Bell's first save since Sept. 14 in Colorado.
Bell allowed a runner in the ninth inning, as he's apt to do, before striking out Casey Blake to end the game.
"Heath has a knack of making us hold our breath," Black said.
Then there was the two-run home run Tejada hit in the third inning off Ted Lilly (8-12), as the shortstop became the 22nd active player to reach the 300-home run plateau. It was his eighth home run in 48 games since joining the team on July 29.
"He's hard to get a hit against," said Tejada, who hit his first home run with the Padres off Lilly on Aug. 3. "It was good to get the lead right away."
Later, after Tejada's home run and after Stauffer was gone, reliever Luke Gregerson got three groundouts in the seventh inning to not only preserve the lead but set a Major League record with his 37th hold of the season.
Gregerson was tied with former Padres reliever Scott Linebrink (2006) and Tom Gordon of the Yankees (2004) before working a scoreless inning on Wednesday.
"It's an honor to be in that position," Gregerson said.
Milestones aside, the story of the game and, perhaps, the entire month was Stauffer, who started the season as a long reliever, missed 46 games after his appendectomy and then pitched once in a 13-game stretch in his return from the disabled list in July.
Now, the work and accolades are coming more regularly, like every fifth day for a pitcher who has essentially put himself right in the middle for the Padres' starting rotation plans for 2011.
"I haven't really given that a whole lot of thought," said Stauffer. "I'm happy with how I'm throwing the ball. I feel comfortable mechanically out there."
Stauffer benefited from his defense, as Aaron Cunningham made a diving catch on a ball off the bat of Matt Kemp in the fourth inning. Then in the eighth, with a runner on first base and two outs, Andre Ethier crushed a line drive down the first-base line that Adrian Gonzalez smothered and stepped on the bag for the final out.
From there, Bell finished it.
"Pretty good, let's go out there and keep adding to it," Bell said of his save total, though he could have been talking about the Padres' number of victories. "Let's go win the series and not worry about anyone else. Just worry about ourselves."