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Padres complete four-game Wrigley sweep

Padres complete four-game Wrigley sweep

CHICAGO -- By bat, by foot and by wit, Will Venable did more than just "move the line" as he said Thursday, when he nearly single-handedly ensured the Padres of a rare four-game sweep of the Cubs.

And he did it all in one inning.

Venable's two-run single with two strikes in the seventh inning might have been the decisive hit in the Padres' 5-3 victory at Wrigley Field, though it was his mad dash to an unoccupied home plate later in the inning for a run that proved equally as important.

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"Just instincts," Padres manager Bud Black said of the play. "It's staying focused and continuing to play."

Black was talking about the play during the Padres' four-run uprising in the seventh, when Venable -- who earlier in the inning gave San Diego a 4-2 lead with his two-run single to center field -- advanced to third base when Chase Headley was tagged out in a rundown between third base and the plate.

That's when things got interesting for the Padres (73-47), who trailed for all of one half-inning in this series with the Cubs (50-72).

Chicago catcher Koyie Hill tagged Headley out after running him back to third base. But Padres third-base coach Glenn Hoffman noticed the play wasn't dead, so he inched closer to Venable and quietly urged him to make a break for home, where no one was covering the plate.

"I went up to him and said, 'No time out, no time out,' ... he [Venable] saw the window, the opportunity and took advantage of it," Hoffman said. "A heads-up play by him."

Hill turned and noticed no one was covering the plate but had to wait for first baseman Xavier Nady to run home to cover. Hill's throw was late as Venable slid across with the fifth run of the game.

"I noticed it, but it wasn't until he [Hoffman] nonchalantly came over and confirmed it," Venable said. "It ended up being a closer play at the plate than I thought. It was a great heads-up call by Hoffy."

That's not how the Cubs -- who protested the play briefly -- saw it, though.

"I felt like I gestured time out like I always gesture time out," Hill said. "I think in that situation I need to be more emphatic about it just to make sure, because you've got guys scattered all over the field.

"I think [pitcher Justin] Berg was on the same page as me thinking the play was dead. I think we need to be more careful there. I thought we had the play taken care of."

The Padres certainly took care of a lot this week in Chicago, earning their first four-game sweep in franchise history against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Better still, they improved their lead in the National League West to 6 1/2 games over the Giants, who play the Phillies on Thursday night.

The Padres have won 10 of their last 11 games and are 22-10 since the All-Star break.

"It's a testament to the guys, how they're grinding through August," Black said. "To come in here and do this ... it's [impressive] how they're focused, how they're playing hard, pulling for each other. It's great to witness."

The four-run inning came a half-inning after the Cubs took their only lead in the series, as Padres pitcher Mat Latos (13-5) allowed three hits in the inning, including back-to-back RBI doubles to Marlon Byrd and Aramis Ramirez.

The Padres came back in the top of the seventh inning against reliever Sean Marshall (6-4), as the first four hitters of the inning reached base. An RBI single to left field by Ryan Ludwick tied the score. Two batters later, Venable came to the plate.

Black had the option of letting Venable, a left-handed batter who entered the game with a .152 average against lefties, hit against Marshall, a southpaw, or go to his bench for Scott Hairston, knowing the Cubs had a right-handed reliever ready in the bullpen.

"I thought Marshall might not have been on top of his game with what happened prior," Black said of the three hits and one walk Marshall had allowed before facing Venable. "We have confidence in all our players ... let's stick with Will."

Venable went down and got a curveball on the outside corner and lined it into center field for a 4-2 lead.

"The guys did a great job of responding in the inning, and I just wanted to keep the line moving," Venable said. "I had faced Marshall in the Minors, so it wasn't uncomfortable."

Latos, who had what Black called a very good curveball, came back out for the bottom of the inning and retired the Cubs. He had a career-high 10 strikeouts and has now allowed two or fewer runs in 12 consecutive starts and three or fewer in 19 straight.

"We stuck to the game plan, which was to get ahead with strike one and make them chase [the curveball]," Latos said. "The curve was a lot sharper today. I felt like it was coming out of my hand really well."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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