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Notes: Hampson is 'pen's unsung hero

Notes: Hampson is unsung hero

MILWAUKEE -- Much has been made about one particular left-handed reliever in the Padres bullpen of late (Joe Thatcher), although that doesn't mean Justin Hampson's work this season has gone unnoticed.

Hampson might be the most unheralded reliever on the staff, not just for the way that he's been pitching lately -- 0.82 ERA in nine September games -- but for how he's helped bail the team out of some sticky situations this season.

"He's filled a variety of roles," Padres manager Bud Black said of Hampson, who started the season with Triple-A Portland. "He's repeated his delivery, shown the ability to be a strike-thrower and is not afraid of contact."

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Hampson, who is 2-3 with a 2.72 ERA in 38 games, allowed an unearned run in a four-inning stint in a 17-inning loss to the Dodgers on April 29. That long stint kept Black from having to use his bullpen even further.

On June 16 against the Cubs, Hampson -- filling in for starting pitcher Chris Young, who was ejected after his altercation with Derrek Lee -- tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings in what would become a 1-0 Padres victory.

Hampson has exceeded one inning of work in 15 of his 38 appearances this season, and after being shuttled back and forth between San Diego and Portland twice, feels like he has found a permanent home in the Padres bullpen.

"I feel this year has been good for me in showing that I have the ability to pitch up here," Hampson said. "I didn't have a lot of experience up here. Coming to a new organization, it was a good feeling that someone over here wanted me, and they were going to give me a shot."

Hampson, 27, was claimed off waivers from the Rockies last October. He has started in the past, though he has filled a niche for the Padres out of the bullpen. And, from the looks of it, he's getting better as the season progresses.

In his first 23 appearances this season, Hampson had 14 walks. In his last 15 games, he has just two walks.

"I'm trying to get ahead of guys more. Obviously, everyone tries to go out and do that. But I've been trying to not be so fine with strike one, not split the plate, but if I go outside, go outer third and hopefully get strike one," Hampson said. "Hopefully then they will ground out or fly out. I'm trying to put the pressure on them."

All Bard, all the time: Catcher Josh Bard was in the starting lineup Saturday for the ninth consecutive game, marking the longest stretch of consecutive games that he's started behind the plate this season without a day off.

Black doesn't want to mess with the team's current chemistry, which is why he has not tinkered with the starting lineup recently. Also, Black does not want to lose Bard's red-hot bat as of late.

"Now that the games have shrunk, I think that Bardo has done a great job behind the plate these past couple weeks," Black said. "It is no reflection on [catcher Michael] Barrett at all. Josh, offensively, has done a great job."

Bard is hitting .333 this month but is hitting .450 (18-for-40) since Sept. 16 and has seven multi-hit games in that stretch.

Tomko, not Peavy: With their victory on Friday, the Padres are guaranteed of at least a playoff tiebreaker game somewhere on Monday.

Because of that, 19-game winner Jake Peavy won't pitch Sunday against the Brewers but will instead pitch in that game Monday or, should San Diego clinch a playoff berth, in the first game of that National League Division Series on Wednesday.

Brett Tomko will take his scheduled turn in the rotation in the regular-season finale for both teams.

"I don't think there's a scenario where Jake throws [Sunday]," Black said. "I think the most important game is our last one ... and tomorrow might not be our last one."

Peavy would be pitching on his normal four days' rest if he pitches on Monday or would have the benefit of two extra days if he doesn't pitch until the start of the playoffs.

Big Hoffy fans: It doesn't happen often, but there was at least one opposing team cheering for Padres closer Trevor Hoffman to get a save in Friday's game -- the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs watched the end of the Padres-Brewers game in the visiting clubhouse after a victory over the Reds. When Hoffman shut down the Brewers in the ninth inning, the Cubs clinched the National League Central Division title.

"I'm not going to lie, we were playing 'Hell's Bells' in here when [Trevor] Hoffman came in," Cubs closer Ryan Dempster said of the San Diego closer's fabled theme song.

On deck: The Padres will complete their four-game series against the Brewers at 11:05 a.m. PT on Sunday as Tomko (4-11, 5.39) gets the start in the regular-season finale. The Brewers counter with Jeff Suppan (11-12, 4.57).

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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