Stout 'pen, stellar defense help Padres stave off Rox
San Diego turns five double plays; Smith, Quentin hit two-run homers
DENVER -- Someone suggested to Padres pitcher Robbie Erlin late Saturday that a pitcher's best friend is the double-play ball.
"Absolutely," said Erlin, who saw his defense turn four of him behind him in five innings at Coors Field.
So where exactly does that leave the back end of the bullpen, which on a night dominated by offensive fireworks and, well, the double-play balls, essentially saved the Padres from a near catastrophic ending after they built a big lead early on?
"Those two guys at the end," said Padres manager Bud Black of eighth-inning specialist Joaquin Benoit and closer Huston Street. "When the outs are most critical, they have been very solid."
Dale Thayer, Benoit and Street managed to turn back a Rockies' comeback with three scoreless innings as the Padres put the finishing touches on an 8-5 victory over Colorado before a crowd of 40,508.
"That was a game we needed to win," said Padres third baseman Chase Headley. "It just sort of had the feeling of one of those Coors Field games."
The Padres (21-23) built an early 6-1 lead after three innings on the strength of several key at-bats with two outs, like Yonder Alonso's two-run double in the first inning and Seth Smith's two-run home run to the pine trees in straightaway center field.
All told, seven of the Padres' eight runs came with two outs.
"I feel that every inning is important, especially here," Alonso said. "When you're up there, you realize you might not get a chance to do that [drive in runs]. He [Rockies pitcher Jordan Lyles] was struggling … so it was nice to give your team a cushion there and give [Erlin] a lead."
Lyles walked six and allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings, paving the way for the Padres' early offense.
"Hats off to them for letting me put them on base and being patient when they saw I wasn't attacking the way I usually do," Lyles said.
But Erlin (3-4), who struggled with his curveball and changeup as many pitchers do at Coors Field, had trouble with hard contact as the Rockies (24-20) began to chip away at the lead. He was able to mostly minimize damage, though, thanks in large part to the four double-plays turned behind him.
The Padres turned five for the game, tying their franchise record.
"The defense was huge," said Erlin, who left the game after 63 pitches, having allowed four runs on nine hits. "It was a tough outing and there's some things I need to improve on. As far as the breaking ball … it was up but it might have been up anywhere tonight."
The Rockies cut into the lead with a run in the fourth inning, one in the fifth and then two more runs in the fifth inning, making it 6-5. But the Rockies wouldn't score again.
The Padres would, though, as Carlos Quentin came off the bench to drill a two-run home run to left field in the seventh inning for some much-needed breathing room.
"He's dangerous, no doubt about it," Black said. "His track record as an offensive performer speaks for itself. He's a guy the opposing team, opposing manager has to think about that."
It was Quentin's first home run of the season in his fourth game back after missing the first 39 games of the season while recovering from a bone bruise in his left knee from Spring Training.
From there, Thayer, Benoit and Street took care of the rest.
Thayer got two quick outs in the seventh inning before allowing two singles. He then got Troy Tulowitzki -- who hit his 12th home run of the season in the first inning -- to line out to Headley to end the inning.
Benoit allowed a ground-rule double to Carlos Gonzalez in the eighth inning, but retired the next three batters he faced. Street, who has converted all 13 of his save opportunities, worked an efficient ninth inning to close out a game that looked at one point to be slipping away from the Padres.
"They're experienced Major League players. They have been through it … they're going to make the other team beat them. They're not going to get beat," Black said of Benoit and Street.