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06/11/09 2:31 AM ET
Correia cruises on short rest for Friars
Right-hander goes six innings, retires his final 15 batters
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- A former pitcher himself, Padres manager Bud Black has recently been adamant about not focusing too much on how much rest a pitcher gets between starts. He was confident that Kevin Correia could pitch just fine on three days' rest, and Correia proved Black correct on Wednesday against the Dodgers. Correia was simply on his game for six innings as he retired the final 15 batters he faced and helped lead the Padres to a 3-1 win over their National League West rival in front of 44,079 at Dodger Stadium. "I was getting ahead of guys and making my pitches," said Correia, who allowed just one run on three hits over six innings. "I just made some pitches and hit the strike zone enough to be aggressive." Correia's only blemish was that he allowed an early run in the first inning on an RBI single by Andre Ethier after Juan Pierre opened the frame with a single. But Correia settled down after that. He didn't allow a hit or walk for five full innings after Rafael Furcal led off the second with a single. "In those last five innings, he was incredibly efficient," Black said. "His ball-strike ratio was awesome. The confidence was there." Correia said he knew after the first inning that he could be in for a good night on the mound as he had command of his fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. "I had four pitches tonight that I was throwing for strikes," said Correia, who threw 54 strikes and just 27 balls. "I knew that if I could throw four pitches for strikes, I'd keep the hitters guessing out there." But the most difficult decision of the game for Black was that he had to decide whether to leave Correia in the game for the seventh or take him out after making just 81 pitches. Black, though, decided to remove Correia despite the fact that Correia had retired 15 batters in a row. Luckily for San Diego, the decision paid off as three Padres relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings to preserve the win. "That was a tough call," Black said. "He'd retired 15 in a row and was still in the low 80s [in pitch count]. And he had the part of the lineup he'd had success with, but I didn't want to push him." One reason why Black made the move was because the bullpen has been lights out for the Padres the past few weeks. "The bullpen, going back to when we started that 10-game winning streak, has been nails," said Black, whose bullpen has posted a 2.34 ERA since May 15. "So no complaints out of the work they've been doing." The offense got out to an early lead for the second straight night, but this time San Diego was able to hold on to the advantage. The Padres jumped out to an early two-run lead in the first inning after they loaded the bases against Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw with no outs. Kevin Kouzmanoff drove in a run on a disputed infield single when it appeared as though he was tagged out before reaching first base but was ruled safe by umpire Angel Campos. Edgar Gonzalez then followed with an RBI groundout two batters later to give San Diego a 2-0 lead. The Padres added another run in the third on a single by Chase Headley. The Padres loaded the bases again with two outs before Kershaw was removed for Jeff Weaver, who struck out Correia to end the inning. Kershaw lasted 2 2/3 innings -- his shortest outing of the season -- and allowed three runs on five hits with four walks. Closer Heath Bell kept the Dodgers scoreless in the ninth to pick up his Major League-leading 18th save this season. The Padres split the rare two-game series with the win and are 11 games behind the division-leading Dodgers. "It's a two-game series but we split with them so it's a good feeling for us," Bell said. "It's a long season so we just feel like if we gain a couple of games and stay a few games back, when August comes around we can be a scrappy baseball team and show everybody who we are."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.