SAN DIEGO (AP)—When the San Diego Padres weren’t hitting the ball over the fences, they simply waited for ball four.
Rookie Kevin Kouzmanoff homered and hit a two-run single during the six-run second inning, carrying Greg Maddux and the Padres to an 8-0 win over erratic Jeff Francis and the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
Morgan Ensberg also homered as the two-time defending NL West champion Padres pulled within two games of Arizona, which lost 14-5 at Florida. Maddux and three relievers combined for San Diego’s 17th shutout, tops in the majors.
Francis matched his career high with six walks, the Rockies walked nine overall. Five of the Padres who walked against Francis scored.
Maddux was impressed with his teammates’ patience at the plate.
“We had a lot of good walks, to be honest with you,” Maddux said. “We hit the ball out of the park a little bit, but I thought some of the best at-bats were the guys who walked. Got on base for the next guy. I thought that was pretty impressive, too.”
Maddux allowed eight hits and struck out four in 5 2-3 innings. He didn’t walk a batter for the third straight start. Overall, the 41-year-old hasn’t walked a batter in 22 innings.
“There’s always a place for them, but there’s not many,” Maddux said. “You always want to make them earn their way on.”
Maddux (8-9) won for the first time since June 27 at San Francisco, ending a string of five losing decisions in eight starts. It was his 341st career victory.
Francis (13-6) walked five in the second inning, including Ensberg with the bases loaded, and saw his string of eight straight winning decisions end. That was a club record for a starter, and the lefty fell one win shy of matching the overall franchise record held by Julian Tavarez. Francis fell to 4-9 lifetime against San Diego, including 2-5 at Petco Park.
“I started walking a couple of guys,” Francis said. “Instead of taking a step back, I think I tried to force it and it just made things worse.”
Kouzmanoff matched his career high with three hits. He opened the second with a home run to straightaway center field, his 13th, to give the Padres a 2-0 lead. He added a two-run, checked-swing single to right with two outs to make it 7-0.
Francis walked Josh Bard and Geoff Blum after Kouzmanoff’s homer. Marcus Giles struck out and Maddux sacrificed. Francis lost his control again, issuing full-count walks to Brian Giles to load the bases and Ensberg to bring in a run. Mike Cameron hit a two-run single to center and Khalil Greene walked to load the bases ahead of Kouzmanoff’s single. Josh Bard popped up to shortstop to end the inning.
“We’re just going to wash it off,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I’m going to wash it off. He’s going to wash it off and show up tomorrow.”
Francis hadn’t lost since June 8 at Baltimore. He lasted only 3 1-3 innings, allowing eight runs and six hits, with four strikeouts.
Colorado, which had won five of seven coming in, remained five games back in third. They were shut out for the first time since July 22, at Washington.
Kouzmanoff, who slumped badly opening the season, also beat out a chopper for an infield single in the fifth.
“He deserved a couple of those hits he got today, and they still haven’t evened out,” manager Bud Black said.
Said Kouzmanoff: “I guess it makes up for all the line outs and the good plays guys made that should be hits.”
Ensberg homered to left with one out in the first. It was his third with the Padres and 11th overall. Bard drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth off Taylor Buchholz to bring in Cameron, who walked against Francis with one out.
With Adrian Gonzalez getting a rare night off, Ensberg made his first start at first base after playing third base virtually his entire career, and it showed. He overran Matt Holliday’s foul pop in the third inning, backed up and fell down without making the catch. He was charged with an error.
“I actually just botched that fly ball like no other,” Ensberg said. “That’s something I’ll have to definitely see if I can work on somehow, because that was terrible.”
Rockies CF Willy Taveras left the game with a quad injury and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, Hurdle said. … Colorado’s Todd Helton had three hits. … Rockies LHP Brian Fuentes was activated from the 15-day disabled list, but he won’t return as closer. He faced four batters in the eighth, striking out two, walking one and allowing a single. … Ensberg played a few innings at 1B in the 2005 All-Star game. With the exception of a few innings at SS, he’s played 3B his whole career. … Gonzalez is due back in the starting lineup Wednesday night.