SAN DIEGO -- The revamped Padres offense was supposed to make its first appearance at the top of San Diego's series finale against the Marlins on Sunday. But after announcing before the game that newly acquired outfielder Ryan Ludwick would start in right and bat fourth, Padres manager Bud Black simply changed his mind, leaving Ludwick out of the San Diego lineup. "I just wanted him to settle in," Black said.
For Padres fans, the debut of San Diego's newest slugger was worth the extra wait. Ludwick delivered a key pinch-hit single and scored what turned out to be the game-winning run in the three-run sixth inning that propelled the Padres to a 5-4 victory over the Marlins on Sunday in front of 27,560 at PETCO Park. With his new team down, 3-2, Ludwick drilled an 0-2 changeup from Marlins starter Josh Johnson to left, loading the bases with one out and setting the table for the Padres to grab the lead over the Florida ace. After a pinch-hit sacrifice fly by Chris Denorfia tied the score, Jerry Hairston Jr. sent a double over the head of Marlins left fielder Logan Morrison. And barreling right behind Will Venable on the way home was Ludwick, who aggressively slid around the tag of Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino and slipped his left hand across the plate to give the Padres a 5-3 advantage. "I'll never forget it," Ludwick said. "I slid across home plate, and I had guys pumping their fist and fired up. A lot of excitement." Ludwick then finished the game in right field and appropriately caught the last out of the game. For as dominant as the Marlins ace has been this season, San Diego appears to be the team that has Johnson's number. The five earned runs were the most Johnson has given up this season, and he also tied his season high with four walks. The Padres didn't waste much time jumping on the National League Cy Young candidate, plating two runs in the first inning on a double roped down the left-field line by Yorvit Torrealba before striking again in the sixth frame. "They made adjustments on him," Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "The first two hitters were [retired on] six pitches, and they made him throw 30 pitches in that first inning. "They beat us, and they beat our best pitcher." Of Johnson's four losses in 2010, two of them have come against San Diego. "Our game plan was just to try to be aggressive," Hairston said. "We know that he's got lights-out stuff and you don't want to get behind early. Without question, he's probably the best pitcher in our league. He's having a great year, and we just wanted to be aggressive." One Padres player that was happy to see that offensive aggressiveness pay off was Jon Garland, who allowed three earned runs on five hits over six innings en route to his 10th win of the season. He gave up a leadoff homer to Hanley Ramirez in the third, which was lifted into the second deck in left field, but struck out six batters. "He hung a breaking ball to Ramirez, but overall, I thought he threw the ball fine," Black said. "I thought his stuff was typical Jon Garland stuff. He kept the ball down, good slider, good curveball. The last couple games, the curveball has been there for him, so it's a nice mix of pitches with the fastball, curve, slider and changeup." After seizing the advantage in the sixth, the San Diego bullpen took care of its end of the bargain, with Heath Bell earning his 30th save despite giving up a run in the ninth. With the victory, San Diego maintained its status as the most consistent team in baseball, as it avoided what would have been just its second three-game losing skid this season and its first sweep since mid-May. And with Ludwick expected to start on Monday in the opener of a four-game series in Los Angeles, the team with the best record in the NL appears to, finally, have its entire team intact for the stretch run. "We're a confident group," Hairston said. "The last couple days have been a little crazy -- a lot of uneasiness. A lot of guys [didn't] know if they were going to get traded themselves or maybe sent down. The additions that we have are, without question, going to help our ballclub. "We have our team now, and hopefully we make a really good run."
Gina Mizell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.