Padres’ NL West lead all but gone after 1-0 loss
SAN DIEGO (AP) – The San Diego Padres’ lead in the NL West is all but gone.
San Francisco pulled into a virtual tie with San Diego atop the NL West with a 1-0 victory on Friday night when Aubrey Huff hustled his way to the game’s only run in the seventh inning.
The Padres (79-61) hold the slimmest possible lead over the Giants (80-62), .564-.563. San Francisco has won nine of 12 while the Padres have lost 12 of 15. The Padres’ recent 10-game losing streak trimmed 5 1/2 games off their lead, which was 6 1/2 games on Aug. 25. They rebounded with a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers but have lost the first two of this four-game series against the Giants.
“Awesome,” said Huff, who scored despite what he called a “dumb play” on his part. “That’s what we play all year for, the grind, all the stuff you go through all year long. It’s what you wait for, to be within striking distance at the end of the year. That’s where we are. We’ve got a lot of ball left, though. We haven’t won anything yet.”
Said Padres shortstop Miguel Tejada: “Now we are tied and it’s a 22-game season.”
The Colorado Rockies are just 2 1/2 back after winning their eighth straight, 13-4 against Arizona.
It was the 14th straight game in which the Padres were held to four or fewer runs.
“That’s tough,” losing pitcher Clayton Richard said. “We are fortunate to be where we are at right now with the way we have played the past three weeks. You have to look at it that we are still in first and we have played pretty poorly in the past three weeks.”
Lefty Jonathan Sanchez and five relievers combined on a three-hitter. Brian Wilson finished for a five-out save, his career-high 42nd in 46 chances. He’s tied with Tampa Bay’s Rafael Soriano for the major league lead.
Tejada’s decision to try to throw out Huff at third base instead of going for the out at first on Jose Guillen’s grounder led to the Giants’ seventh-inning run.
Huff was hit in the right elbow by a pitch from Richard leading off the inning and stole second as Pat Burrell struck out. Huff took off for third on Guillen’s grounder. Tejada glanced at first before throwing to third, but Huff slid in before Chase Headley could tag him. Huff then scored as pinch-runner Nate Schierholtz was forced on Juan Uribe’s grounder to third.
“It was actually a dumb play on my part,” Huff said. “The way he hit it, from the angle I was at, it looked like it was going to go in the hole anyway. I thought he hit it a lot harder than he did. Once you go, you’ve got to at least try to get it. It was a good call. I was safe. But it’s not really the way you’d draw it up. It’s not a smart play, but it worked out.”
Tejada was surprised Huff ran.
“In that situation, when somebody is at second, you never go to third on that ball,” Tejada said. “In that situation it’s a long throw to go to first. I made the decision to go to third. At that time, I think that’s the best play. It is bad baserunning for him. He just got lucky. It was good hustle, too.”
Santiago Casilla (7-2) pitched 1 1-3 innings for the win.
Sanchez was gone after five scoreless innings, having given up just one hit but walking a season-high seven. He struck out four.
It was Sanchez’s first start against San Diego since a 3-2 loss to the Padres at San Francisco on Aug. 13. A few days before that start, Sanchez guaranteed that the Giants would sweep that series, but the Padres took two of three. Sanchez no-hit the Padres in 2009.
Richard (12-7) allowed one run and two hits in six-plus innings, struck out three and walked one.
The Giants had the bases loaded and one out in the ninth when Wilson hit a comebacker to Ryan Webb. Webb threw home to force Uribe, who grabbed catcher Nick Hundley’s right calf, causing him to twist and drop the ball as he went to throw to first. Umpire Chris Guccione immediately called Wilson out due to Uribe’s interference.
The Padres failed to take advantage of eight walks.
“We’re going to come out of it with a vengeance at some point,” manager Bud Black said of the Padres’ offensive slump. “I think we have too good of hitters on this team to stay in this too much longer.”
NOTES: Wilson’s previous career high in saves was 41 in 2008. … Wilson has nine saves in 10 opportunities this season when pitching more than 1 1-3 innings. … Saturday’s pitching matchup is San Francisco lefty Madison Bumgarner (5-4) vs. Tim Stauffer (3-3), while Sunday’s series finale will have a marquee matchup between two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum (13-9) and Padres ace Mat Latos (14-5), whose 2.21 ERA is the best in the big leagues. On Tuesday night, Latos set a big league record with his 15th straight start of five or more innings with two or fewer runs allowed. He had been tied with Greg Maddux (1993-94) and Mike Scott (1986) with 14.