Padres roll to seven-win trip behind Garland

Padres roll to seven-win trip behind Garland

MILWAUKEE -- It only makes perfect sense that the most consistent team in the Major Leagues is comprised of players who have collectively refused, even upon prodding, to recognize their lofty lot in life and what it could potentially mean come October.

On Sunday, though, that steadfast veneer of uniformity took a hit when Chase Headley finally acknowledged what everyone else -- well, those outside the Padres' clubhouse -- have been talking about for quite some time.

"You can start to smell it," Headley said. "We've got a month to go and we're in a good position. Every win gets you a day closer to where you want to be."

While no one is going to award the Padres the National League West title in August, nor are the Padres expecting as much, the 7-3 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park had at least one player thinking about what might be, especially after what has transpired over the past 10 games.

The Padres (74-49) completed their longest road trip of the season to date with a 7-3 mark against the team that's immediately chasing them (the Giants), the Cubs and the Brewers.

San Diego left for this road trip 2 1/2 games ahead of San Francisco. The victory against the Brewers before a sun-splashed crowd of 32,126 -- coupled with the Giants' loss to the Cardinals -- lifted the Padres six games ahead of the Giants as they head into Monday's off-day.

"Whatever those numbers are, I'm in," said Padres manager Bud Black. "We're playing good baseball. Guys are going about it the right way."

There were plenty of numbers to pick apart after this one: Jon Garland's 13th victory of the season, the solo home runs Adrian Gonzalez and Headley hit early and even the late offensive push that included two-run doubles by Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick.

But maybe the most impressive number for the Padres is this: They remain the only team in the Major Leagues to have just one solitary three-game losing streak all season. The Padres, after their victory Sunday, are now 14-1 in games that have followed two successive losses.

"I don't know if you can pinpoint why we are so good in those games," Garland said.

The Padres' amiable closer, Heath Bell, has an idea.

"We play for happy flights [home]," Bell said. "We're happy flight guys."

Gonzalez, who hit his 25th home run of the season, sat back in his clubhouse chair and smiled.

"We play to win," he said.

San Diego avoided a sweep thanks in part to the contributions of Garland, who allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings. The bullpen picked Garland up from there, as four relievers combined to allow one run over the final 3 2/3 innings.

The Padres got home runs from Gonzalez and Headley in the first two innings and then added on in the fifth inning when Ludwick, who was hitting .239 since joining the team on Aug. 1, lifted a two-out, two-run double down the right field line that doubled the advantage.

"It was away, but it wasn't down like it was supposed to be," said Brewers starter Manny Parra. "At the same time, as far as that one goes, you're not going to be perfect every time. That's just a good piece of hitting."

Garland allowed a two-run home run to Ryan Braun in the bottom of the inning as the Brewers cut the lead to 4-2, snapping the veteran's 21 1/3-inning scoreless streak. That's when the momentum turned back in the favor of the Padres, who scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning.

Tejada had a two-run double in the inning, though Black pointed to the contribution of second baseman David Eckstein, in his second game back after missing 29 games with a strained right calf.

"Eck got a two-out RBI that sort of swung the momentum back to us," Black said. "At that time, it was 4-2. I really love the two-out run."

And, as Black said, he loved the results of this road trip, one that started by taking two of three games from the Giants last week and included the first four-game sweep by the Padres at Wrigley Field.

"This was a long one. and in this time of year, in August ... to do what we did on this trip is a testament to our players," Black said.

"Our guys are getting it done. There's no magic formula."

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