Padres erupt early, hold on for sharp Erlin
Venable HR, four-run fourth backs scoreless start; Street escapes Fish
SAN DIEGO -- Robbie Erlin turned in another strong pitching performance and the San Diego bats stayed hot as the Padres took down the Marlins, 5-4, in the finale of a four-game series at Petco Park on Sunday.
Will Venable got things started for the Padres' offense with a leadoff home run in the first. The homer was Venable's first of the season and his 10th career leadoff home run, improving his franchise-best mark.
The Padres used another big inning to pad the lead, with Chris Denorfia's two-run single serving as the big blow in a four-run fourth.
"Two big outbursts on Friday and Saturday, and today we had some big hits," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Denorfia got the big two-out hit after they pitched around Will. That was a key at-bat that flipped the game to us momentum-wise. And, it turned out that we needed them all."
After Erlin exited, Dale Thayer surrendered a solo home run to Christian Yelich in the eighth. Joaquin Benoit came on and allowed a two-run triple to Jeff Baker that skipped just underneath the glove of a diving Denorfia in right field. Benoit allowed one more run on a groundout by Adeiny Hechavarria as the Marlins cut the lead to 5-4.
Huston Street ran into some trouble in the ninth. The closer faced Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton with the potential tying run on base, and after falling behind in the count, pitched around the dangerous hitter in a close game.
"When I fell behind Stanton 2-0, he didn't really chase or give me anything I wanted," Street said. "He's the type of guy that if you put a ball in the zone, they could be ahead really quickly."
Street recovered after walking Stanton and Casey McGehee by getting Jeff Baker to ground into a forceout, giving the closer his 11th save in as many chances and keeping the Padres unbeaten (4-0) on Mother's Day at Petco Park.
"There was a little crisis at the end, but Huston has proven through his career he knows how to get outs," Black said. "That's the sign of a good closer. He did his job."
Erlin (2-4) struck out a career-high seven batters and did not allow a run over 6 1/3 innings. He snapped a personal four-game losing streak and collected his first victory since April 15, despite allowing only one run over seven innings in his previous start.
"Robbie was good," Black said. "Good three-pitch mix. It's about him using his three pitches effectively. He's capable of doing the type of work that he did today."
Having scored 24 runs over their past three games, the Padres appear to have broken out of an offensive slump that saw them enter the weekend with the fewest runs scored in the Majors. Leading the offensive surge is outfielder Seth Smith, who went 2-for-4 on Sunday with an RBI, and has 14 hits in his last 27 at-bats, including five doubles, two triples, a home run and seven RBIs.
"It's more like what we are hoping for as a group," Black said. "Some guys are starting to swing the bats better. Guys are getting on base via the walk and the base hit. The last couple of games have been much better in terms of on-base percentage. We need guys on base."
Yonder Alonso also has heated up with the bat, and before flying out to right in the seventh, he had reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances, including five hits and three walks.
"I think as an offense and as a team we have a good rhythm," Alonso said. "I think we're more relaxed, and in the last couple of days we have been getting some good pitches to hit. It kind of takes the tension a little bit off with some big games we've had."
In addition to the improved offense over the past three games, Padres pitchers also set a franchise record for strikeouts in a four-game series by whiffing 48 batters.
"We have good pitchers," Black said. "It comes down to talent, pitch execution by the staff and all of the pitchers. Add that all up, and you set a record for strikeouts in a four-game series."