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Germano regains early-season form

Germano regains early-season form

PHOENIX -- When discussing his style of pitching the day before his Sunday afternoon start against the D-backs, Justin Germano said that he doesn't have to look too far across the locker room for inspiration.

"Look at [Greg] Maddux, he doesn't throw all that hard anymore and he's still getting people out," Germano said.

That's exactly what Germano (6-3) did on Sunday, throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings as the Padres prevented a sweep in the finale of this three-game series in the Valley of the Sun, 4-0, in front of 30,343 at Chase Field.

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Germano did what he has done for the majority of his starts since joining the rotation on May 7, throw strikes and keep hitters off-balance, all while peaking at 85 mph on the radar gun.

"There was a lot of 80s, 81s, 82s that weren't really his fastball and weren't really his changeup," said D-backs manager Bob Melvin. "He gets ahead of you and all of a sudden humps up a [mid-80s] pitch in to get an out."

Germano's outing couldn't have come at a better time for a lot of reasons. The team had dropped its first two games of the second half and had to face reigning Cy Young Award winner and All-Star Brandon Webb. There were reports the Padres likely are seeking to trade for another starting pitcher. Germano had given up 12 runs in 10 2/3 innings in his last two games before the break.

"I knew it was going to be a tough game," said Germano. "I was more worried about getting a solid outing coming off the last two starts."

All Germano did was look like the pitcher that went 5-1 with a 2.67 ERA in his first nine starts of the season

True, there was a sense that a lot of the bounces were going the Padres' way on Sunday. D-backs catcher Chris Snyder hit a hard ground ball in the fifth that third baseman Russell Branyan couldn't handle, but it popped high in the air right into the glove of Khalil Greene, who threw to first for the out.

Meanwhile, in the next half-inning, Germano helped his own cause with the slowest of slow rollers just an inch beyond the glove of D-backs second sacker Orlando Hudson to drive in a run. It was that kind of afternoon.

But make no mistake about it, the win wasn't about a few lucky breaks, it was about Germano making big pitches in big situations.

"Needless to day, he threw the ball very well," said Padres skipper Bud Black. "The key, especially early in the game, was first-pitch strikes, and when he was ahead in the count he kept throwing strikes."

With runners at the corners in the fourth, Germano induced a popout and a groundout to end the threat. In the sixth, after the first two batters had reached, Germano quieted the rally with a flyout and two strikeouts.

"He's a command pitcher, and that's what he did," said Snyder. "He kept a steady mix, and it's tough."

"In every game it comes down to a few critical pitches," said Black. "If they go the other way, we've got a different outcome, but he made pitches and held it down."

Meanwhile, the offense was doing just enough against Webb (8-7) to give the rookie right-hander some breathing room, despite Webb fanning 10 batters in 5 2/3 innings.

"If you ask him, [Webb] will probably say he didn't have his best stuff, but he still kept his team in the game," said Brian Giles, who had three hits and has reached base in his last six plate appearances.

Milton Bradley continued his hot start with his new team with two hits and two RBIs.

The bullpen, which a night earlier had given up a 4-0 lead, made sure there would be no repeat performance. Heath Bell, who was the prime culprit on Saturday, came on to bail Germano out of a seventh-inning jam by inducing a double-play ball. Scott Linebrink and Doug Brocail finished with a scoreless inning each.

"It's good when the guy gets right back out there on the mound instead of waiting a couple of days," Black said of Bell. "I have the utmost confidence in our 'pen. What happened [Saturday] was an extremely rare occurrence."

The Padres head home on an upbeat note, as they remain just a game behind the division-leading Dodgers heading into a series with the National League East-leading Mets.

"For us to drop the game last night the way we did and come back against their ace was huge," said Giles.

Jason Grey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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