Padres 3, Cardinals 2

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SAN DIEGO (AP)—The San Diego Padres finally seem to be getting it right.

With Oliver Perez throwing seven strong innings and veteran closer Rod Beck finishing the job, the Padres beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 on Tuesday night for their fourth straight win.

Luther Hackman and Mike Matthews worked out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the eighth inning to give the Padres two straight wins over the Cardinals.

“We have started to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” catcher Gary Bennett said. “We’re finding ways to win games rather than doing just enough to lose.”

The Padres, who had lost 29 of 34 games to St. Louis dating to the start of the 1999 season, are quietly improving.

“I don’t know what went on before I got here,” Beck said, “but this team is slowly but surely learning how to win.”

San Diego was 16-41 when it signed Beck on June 2. Since then, the last-place Padres are 23-22.

With 277 career saves, Beck has been perfect in 11 chances with the Padres. Manager Bruce Bochy believes the right-hander has made a big difference.

“He has helped turn our club around,” Bochy said.

St. Louis got bad news before the game when it learned right-hander Matt Morris has a fractured right index finger after getting hit by a line drive Monday night.

Morris was placed on the 15-day disabled list and is expected to miss three-to-six weeks.

Perez (4-4) pitched under control more than he has in most of his 14 starts this season. He allowed two runs on seven hits, striking out seven and walking one.

“I’ve been working on being comfortable and pitching within myself,” Perez said. “I’ve been feeling good out there.”

After lasting fewer than five innings in each of his two previous starts, Perez pitched into the seventh for just fifth time this season.

Cardinals left-hander Jeff Fassero (1-5) turned in a solid performance in his first start in nearly two years. Fassero replaced the struggling Garrett Stephenson in the rotation and allowed one run on five hits in four innings.

Fassero, who had made 168 relief appearances since his last start on Aug. 8, 2000, struck out seven and walked one.

“I got stronger as the game went on,” Fassero said. “I don’t think I could have pitched much better than I did.”

The Cardinals missed a golden chance in the eighth inning.

Hackman relieved Perez to start the inning and loaded the bases on a leadoff single by Albert Pujols, a walk to Scott Rolen and Edgar Renteria’s single.

But Hackman was bailed out when Eduardo Perez lined a shot right at second baseman Mark Loretta, who flipped to shortstop Ramon Vazquez to double Rolen off second. Matthews relieved and got Tino Martinez to fly out to end the inning.

“That’s a huge miss when you load the bases like that,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “Scott’s a good baserunner, but that’s a big no-no.”

Rondell White put the Padres up 1-0 in the first inning when he singled in Gary Matthews Jr., who reached on a one-out infield single and went to third on Ryan Klesko’s two-out single.

San Diego added to its lead in the fifth inning against Stephenson, who entered in relief. Vazquez led off with a walk and went to second on a single by Matthews. Stephenson loaded the bases when he hit Loretta with a pitch.

Klesko brought in one run with a sacrifice fly, and White’s RBI grounder made it 3-0.

Orlando Palmeiro singled leading off the Cardinals’ sixth and went to third on Pujols’ double. Rolen had a sacrifice fly, and an RBI single by Renteria cutthe lead to 3-2.

Notes

San Diego traded LHP Jesse Orosco to the New York Yankees for a player to be named. … Fassero’s longest outing this season had been last Thursday at Los Angeles when he pitched three innings. … In Perez’s 14 starts, he has yet to go a game without walking a batter, and he walked one batter for just the second time. … Morris was replaced on the roster by right-hander MikeCrudale, recalled from Triple-A Memphis.

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