SAN DIEGO (AP)—The San Diego Padres’ luck seems to be changing, along with the calendar.
The NL West-leading Padres couldn’t get down two bunts on Wednesday and turned them into two home runs. The big blow was Ben Johnson’s first career homer, a three-run drive, and the Padres beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-5 to chug into September with a .500 record.
The Padres (66-66) took two of three from the Diamondbacks, who dropped into third place in baseball’s worst division. The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 7-0 to take sole possession of second place, 5 1/2 games back.
“Obviously, the calendar is on our side,” said Dave Roberts, who hit a solo homer after failing to get down a squeeze bunt.
Roberts said the Padres need to worry about themselves, not their pursuers.
“We expected to win this division, we said it from day one, and we want to go far in the playoffs,” Roberts said. “We’re worried about ourselves playing better baseball because if we don’t, we’re not going to fare too well in the postseason.”
The Padres were 15-12 in August, only their second winning month of the season. The other was May, when they were 22-6 to set a franchise record for wins in a month. On May 31, they were 33-19 and led Arizona by three games.
Arizona’s Javier Vazquez (10-14), whose start was pushed back a day because of stomach flu, allowed both Padres homers in losing to San Diego for the first time in three starts this year.
After Greene and Miguel Olivo singled to open sixth, Johnson tried to advance them by bunting. He fouled off the first pitch and pulled back on the second, which was a called strike. He then drove a 2-2 fastball to straightaway center for a 7-1 lead.
Johnson was recalled from Triple-A Portland on Monday when right-hander Pedro Astacio went on the disabled list. He made his major league debut on June 26 against Seattle, during his first stint with the Padres.
“I was still disappointed in myself I didn’t get the bunt down because I feel I can do it, but I guess it all worked out today in the end,” Johnson said. “We’ll take it, but in the end we’ll have to execute. Stuff like that very rarely happens.”
“The sixth was a big inning,” Arizona manger Bob Melvin said. “Johnson’s blow is the one that makes you think that now we have to scramble. Especially after winning game one, we didn’t think we’d lose two of three.”
Park walked Shawn Green leading off the seventh and made way for Clay Hensley. The Diamondbacks scored three runs in the inning, on three hits, two walks and two errors. Chad Tracy singled in one run, and two runs scored on reliever Clay Hensley’s throwing error on Craig Counsell’s infield hit.
Roberts hit an opposite-field homer to left with two outs in the fourth, his eighth. It came just after Johnson was tagged out by catcher Chris Snyder on a botched squeeze.
Roberts said Vazquez threw a changeup that bounced on the plate “so I couldn’t bunt it. Fortunately, I was still able to drive in a run.”
The Padres have turned the last two squeeze attempts into a triple and a homer.
“Sometimes it’s better off not executing, I guess,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Johnson, I mean, he crushed that ball. That’s huge at that point. It gave us a comfortable lead, because we were trying to let them back in.”
Luis Gonzalez hit a solo shot off Park with one out in the sixth. It was his 21st, and his second in two games.
Vazquez, who had beaten the Padres twice this year, allowed 10 hits and eight runs, seven earned, in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out five and walked two. In his last six starts against San Diego, dating to Aug. 17, 2001, he’d only allowed four earned runs in 50 innings.
“I did the best I could,” he said. “They beat me today.”
San Diego took a 3-0 lead in the first. Greene had an RBI single, one run scored on a wild pitch by Vazquez and another scored on third baseman Troy Glaus’ throwing error on a grounder by Olivo.
The Diamondbacks were 9-19 in August. On Aug. 1, the Padres were 51-54, percentage points ahead of the Diamondbacks, who were 52-55. … The Padres recalled 3B Sean Burroughs from Triple-A Portland before the game. Burroughs replaced Joe Randa during a double-switch in the seventh, and singled in the eighth. Burroughs was demoted on July 23 to work on his batting stroke. … The error by Glaus was his 21st, the second-highest total of his career. He had 33 with the Angels in 2000. … Snyder went 0-for-2 to extend his slump to 0-for-18. He’s 7-for-55 over his last 20 games.