Streaking Padres complete sweep of Marlins

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres are warmer than San Diego -- and that's saying something.
Continuing their trend of hot play, the Padres ran their winning streak to four with a 1-0 triumph over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday before a matinee crowd of 16,730 at Petco Park.
Behind the stellar pitching of Jason Marquis, the Padres swept the Marlins to complete a 5-1 home stand.
"His sinker was tremendous," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "He kept the ball down and that is his game. And the defense did a heck of a job."
Throw in just enough offense, and there you go.
"Add all those up and that is how you win," Black said.
Few teams in baseball are playing at the Padres' pace, as they won for the 11th time in 14 games. The Padres (16-18) started the season 5-15, but righted the ship and remain above the last-place Dodgers in the National League West.
"Once we started playing well it turned into a huge snowball," said Yonder Alonso, who had the game's lone RBI on a sacrifice fly. "It's been fun and it seems like we are hitting our rhythm."
The Padres' offense certainly didn't match the pitching of Marquis, or the defense of shortstop Everth Cabrera, third baseman Chase Headley and right fielder Will Venable -- all three made impressive plays. But Alonso's sixth-inning sacrifice fly, which scored Venable, was enough for Marquis (4-2) to outlast Ricky Nolasco (2-4).
"When the defense is playing like that, that allows me to pitch to contact," Marquis said. "Then I can live on the edges a little bit."
Marquis went eight innings in winning for the second straight time and producing his fifth quality start, which leads the staff. He allowed five hits and one walk and struck out three while keeping the Marlins at bay with a steady mix of fast balls, sinkers and change-ups.
"I've been working real hard to get my mechanics right," Marquis said. "The last couple of weeks of spring training and probably my first four stats, it was more of a battle out there to make pitches and get guys out. It's easier now that I have figured a few things out and I got the life back on the ball."
Huston Street retired the side in order in the ninth to pick up his eighth save and second of the home stand.
Marquis extended a run of solid pitching by the Padres' starters, an area which was among the team's early-season shortcomings. The Padres have four quality starts in a row, and six in their last seven games.
"That has set the tone," Black said of his rotation.
The Padres' staff has allowed two runs in their last four games with two shutouts and two one-run efforts. There is a healthy competition among the starters to keep the pace, a standard set in the last two games by Andrew Cashner and Eric Stults.
"We pull for each other big time," Marquis said. "After the last few outings with Cash and Stults, you want to go out and out-perform them in a good way. We feed off each other."
The Marlins managed but one run on 17 hits in their three games against the Padres.
"We pretty much got shut down," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "After coming off a series with Philadelphia, where I thought we had pretty much turned the corner, it's definitely disappointing."
The Marlins got to Marquis in the third inning, with a single from Derek Dietrich, his first major-league hit, and a double by Miguel Olivo. Nolasco's weak grounder to third baseman Chase Headley wasn't enough to chase home Dietrich.
Marquis loaded the bases by walking Juan Pierre but wiggled free thanks to some nifty glove work. Adeiny Hechavarria sent a shot up the middle that might have resulted in two runs. But Marquis knocked the ball down, retrieved it in time to retire Dietrich at the plate, and catcher Nick Hundley completing the inning-ending double play with his relay to first baseman Alonso.
"Fortunately it was hit at somebody, myself," Marquis said. "That double play definitely helped."
Redmond bemoaned the Marlins' lack of clutch hitting, although they didn't get many chances.
"We had the one shot and we couldn't get that hit and score those runs," he said.
The Padres' initial threat also died, this one coming in the first inning.
With two outs, Headley had a hustling double to right field and Carlos Quentin was then hit by a pitch. But Alonso chased a high pitch for strike three, leaving two aboard.
The Padres were quiet until the sixth, when Venable reached on a one-out single that ricocheted off Nolasco and just eluded the glove of a diving Dietrich. That brought Headley to the plate, and he dumped a flare into right field, with Venable only reaching second as he had to hold up until the ball dropped in front of Marcell Ozuna.
With two on, it was a perfect time for the struggling Quentin to snap his 0-for-19 skid. Quentin worked the count full, before walking and turning the bases-loaded situation over to Alonso.
"You don't want to do too much at the plate," Alonso said. "I just wanted to get a good pitch and put the barrel on the ball."
Alonso came through with a medium-range fly ball to left, and considering Pierre's below-average arm, Venable scored easily on the tag. But the Padres would get no more, as Jedd Gyorko followed with a ground ball to third to end the inning.
Other than that, the Padres made little noise against Nolasco.
"It's frustrating but I put myself in a bad situation," said Nolasco, who had a season-high nine strikeouts. "Lost this game by walking Carlos Quentin; had a 0-2 count and I couldn't put him away. I ended up walking him and that was the game right there.
"It's nobody's fault but mine. If I can get that guy out like I should in that situation, we go to extra innings. But I let myself down and the team on that one."
The Marlins got off the mat the following inning, as Justin Ruggiano produced a two-out single, which was followed by another single by Greg Dobbs. With activity in the Padres' bullpen, the veteran Marquis started the rookie Dietrich off with two fastballs in the 80s, then went soft. Marquis got Dietrich to swing at a changeup outside the zone to end a rare Marlins threat.
"Right now, we're in a funk," Redmond said. "But that can change quick."
Don't the Padres know that. Their tepid start morphed into a torrid run, and now the question is which Padres team will show on the road?
"We're going to see what we are," Black said. "I'd like to think the way we are playing now is indicative of what we can do."
The Marlins hope to revert back to the club which recently split a series in Philadelphia.
"The effort is there," Nolasco said. "For a month and a half until now. We just have to get it going. We are losing too many games with this team. It's just not working and we have to do something."
NOTES: The Padres will call up hard-throwing RHP Burch Smith from Class AA San Antonio to make Saturday's start in Tampa. Smith is taking Clayton Richard's place in the rotation. It will be Smith's major-league debut. ... Headley extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a double off the glove of Dobbs in the first-inning. It's the second-longest streak of Headley's career; his longest is 16 games in 2011. During his streak, which includes three multiple-hit games, Headley is batting .400 (20-for-50) with seven doubles, two HRs and seven RBI. ... When Pierre was caught attempting to steal in the first inning, it snapped his streak of nine straight stolen bases. ... For Marquis, it was his longest outing (eight innings) since he shut out the Pirates on Aug. 11. ... When Miami's Dietrich hit a single in his first at-bat in the majors, he became the first Marlin to do that since Giancarlo Stanton on June 8, 2010. ... Wednesday marked the Padres' third sweep of the season. Only the Giants (four) have more. The Padres are 11-3 over the last 14 games, which, as of the end of the game, is the best winning percentage since April 24 in baseball. Detroit is 10-2 over that span and plays tonight in Washington. The Padres have won nine of their last 10 home games. ... The Marlins head to Dodger Stadium, where they have played pretty well of late, winning 12 of their past 20. They open a three-game series there on Friday. ... The Padres begin interleague play on Friday, facing the Rays in Tampa for a three-game set before wrapping up the trip with two contests in Baltimore.

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