WASHINGTON (AP)—Well, at least the San Diego Padres can call themselves the best of the worst in the National League.
Adrian Gonzalez’s 35th homer and Kevin Kouzmanoff’s three RBIs backed Cha Seung Baek’s strong start, and the Padres beat the Washington Nationals 6-2 Sunday to sweep a three-game series between the NL’s worst teams.
“Things aren’t going our way, but I think we just do the best we can with the things we can control—running balls out, playing hard, and just trying to stay in the game mentally,” Kouzmanoff said. “At this point in the season, it’s hard to just hang them up, shut it down, quit early. I think it’s important for us to finish strong.”
San Diego completed its first sweep on the road since July 24-26, 2006, at Dodger Stadium.
Both clubs already are assured of finishing last in their divisions and both entered this series 58-95. But San Diego outscored Washington by a combined total of 23-9 while taking all three games.
“Hey,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said, “the Padres are a major league team.”
The Nationals need to go 5-1 the rest of the way to avoid the franchise’s first season with 100 losses since the Montreal Expos were 55-107 in 1976.
San Diego, Washington and the AL-worst Seattle Mariners are in the hunt to wind up with the fewest victories in the majors—and the No. 1 overall pick in June’s amateur draft.
“I don’t even know where we stand,” Kouzmanoff said. “But I think whether we’re facing this team, or the Dodgers or the D-backs, we’re still looking to win and play hard. We just want to win some ball games, really, whether it’s the first-place team or the last-place team.”
Baek (6-9) allowed one run over seven innings, on Ryan Zimmerman’s 13th homer.
The righty struck out five, walked none, and credited his success to taking less time between pitches.
“Sometimes I would lose focus,” he said. “This is more aggressive.”
He only had two 1-2-3 innings, but one was the seventh, his last.
“He got on the hill, we got the sign into him, and he went,” catcher Nick Hundley said. “There wasn’t a lot of thought process on his mechanics or pitch selection—he threw with a clear mind.”
Washington’s Odalis Perez (7-11) tied his career best with 11 strikeouts, including five in a row at one point.
What was working for the left-hander?
“Pretty much everything,” Perez said. “Fastball. Changeup. Cutter was good. Slider. Felt good all day long.”
Except, he noted, for a few pitches, including the one that yielded Kouzmanoff’s two-run double in the first inning and Gonzalez’s homer in the sixth. Perez lasted six innings, giving up three runs and five hits.
San Diego padded its lead in the eighth, which began with Edgar Gonzalez reaching on what was ruled a throwing error by Zimmerman, although TV replays appeared to show that first baseman Kory Casto managed to tag the runner out.
Acta argued the call with first-base umpire Paul Emmel.
“He just blew it,” Acta said. “Just a bad call.”
Adrian Gonzalez walked, Kouzmanoff doubled, Chase Headley added an RBI single and Hundley drove in another insurance run on a sacrifice fly when right fielder Elijah Dukes apparently lost track of the number of outs and didn’t attempt a throw.
“That’s the reason I don’t put any of those guys in the Hall of Fame yet,” Acta said. “You have to be patient, let these guys play, because one, two, three games, 10 games, doesn’t tell you the whole story.”
Perez also struck out 11 batters on April 30, 2003, for the Dodgers against the Phillies. … Padres RF Brian Giles got the day off; Chip Ambres started. “Everything’s fine with Brian,” Black said. … The Padres took the season series 5-1. … The Padres entered this series 24-51 away from home.