SAN DIEGO -- As the veteran leader of a young Padres pitching staff, Clayton Richard's results on the mound haven't always lined up with his importance in San Diego's clubhouse. That wasn't the case Thursday night, when Richard pitched six scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory against the Cardinals at Petco Park.
Unable to complete the four-game sweep, St. Louis fell to five games behind the Cubs in the National League Central, tied with Milwaukee for second. The Cards and Brewers are three games back of the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card. Still, the Cardinals were pleased to finish their longest road trip of the season with seven wins.
"You'll take 7-3," Cardinals starter Lance Lynn said. "We're in the thick of things. That's where you want to be at this time of year. Unfortunately, you have to hope for some help. But if we keep winning games, I think we'll be all right."
The Padres completed their seventh straight winning homestand, as they finished 6-5 against the Giants, Dodgers and Cardinals.
Richard pitched only one perfect inning, but used his ability to induce ground balls to keep St. Louis scoreless. The Padres turned a pair of double plays behind the left-hander, tying him with teammate Luis Perdomo for the NL lead with 27 ground-ball double plays. Richard entered Thursday's start with an opposing BABIP of .355, the highest of any pitcher who had faced at least 500 batters in 2017, but he now has a 3.09 ERA at Petco Park since the All-Star break.
"He's been the victim of bad luck," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He's kept us in a lot of ballgames and given us a chance to win, and even today, he's good going deep into games. He throws the ball well every single time out, and when he doesn't, he still eats innings for you."
Said Richard: "That's what I think separates a lot of the guys, is the ability to lock in when runners are in scoring position, or they have an opportunity to score, and I think that when you're able to do that, it changes momentum. … When you're able to shut guys down, you get something going."
The Padres took advantage of first-inning ground balls against Lynn. With three infield hits, San Diego took a 1-0 lead. It was the only run Lynn allowed in six innings, pitching a quality start for the 11th time in his past 12 outings.
"He really found his groove and was able to get through six when we didn't think he was going to get through four," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Lynn, who needed 57 pitches to get through two innings. "But he felt strong, got better as he went and gave us a chance."
The blister on Lynn's right middle finger that bothered him his last time out wasn't an issue this time, he said afterward. However, run support continues to be an issue. Though Lynn has allowed just three earned runs over his last three starts (21 innings), the Cardinals have lost all three games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED No ill Wil: Myers' two-run shot in the seventh was his first home run since Aug. 12 and made him the fifth Padre with multiple 25-homer, 10-steal seasons. After providing one of the infield hits and stealing his 18th base in the first, Myers joined Angels star Mike Trout as the only players with at least 25 home runs and 18 steals. It was Myers' third game of 2017 with both a home run and a steal, a feat he accomplished five times during an All-Star campaign a year ago. Myers is hitting .217 in the second half, but has multiple hits in four of his last six games.
"I was relaxed up there," Myers said. "I've been more relaxed for the past week or so, just trying to put some good swings on balls, trying to stay within my zone, trying to stay through the middle of the field." More >
Ground attack:Manuel Margot entered Thursday hitting .111 over his past 12 games, but he started the Padres' rally in the first with a chopper that third baseman Alex Mejia couldn't corral near the mound. Margot took second on a delayed steal and moved to third on Carlos Asuaje's bunt, before coming home on Jose Pirela's infield single.
"I gave up three hits that didn't get to the infield dirt," Lynn said. "It's just baseball sometimes. To get through six and give the team a chance to win, especially after the kind of unlucky, weird first, [was OK]."
"For me, as a starting pitcher, every season, it'd be nice [to reach 200 innings]. I don't predicate my work or my mentality around that, but it's a benchmark for starting pitching, and I think everybody sets out and they want to achieve that 200-inning mark. It means you're getting deep into games, and you're giving your team a chance." -- Richard, whose 179 innings lead the Padres and are more than he threw total from 2013-16
"This was a slider that wasn't sharp. Whether it's been the slider, whether it's been the changeup, it's offspeed pitches that are up in the zone." -- Matheny, on Oh allowing another home run, his ninth in 56 1/3 innings this season
Richard and Lynn have quite the history. Not only did they pitch against each other last month in St. Louis, but their Indiana high schools also faced off for a state championship in 2003. Lynn, a freshman, entered the title game in relief for Brownsburg, while Richard was a senior at McCutcheon, the winner, but didn't pitch in the matchup after being on the mound in the semifinal game the night before.
"We go way back," Richard said. "The glory days."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Padres nearly gave away two baserunners in the first. After Paul DeJong's two-out line drive sailed over Margot in center for a double, Jose Martinez hit a grounder to shortstop Erick Aybar. Aybar's throw to first pulled Myers off the bag, and Martinez was ruled safe, but the Padres challenged. Replays showed Myers managed to tag Martinez in time for the final out of the frame, as the call was overturned.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: The Cardinals open a six-game homestand on Friday with a 7:15 p.m. CT game against the Pirates. Luke Weaver, who has won four consecutive starts, will start for the Cards opposite Trevor Williams in the series opener.
Padres:Jordan Lyles will make his second start with the Padres on Friday when the team opens at three-game series at Arizona at 6:40 p.m. PT. Lyles, signed as a Minor League free agent after Colorado released him, pitched 4 1/3 innings against the Dodgers in his team debut, allowing two runs. He has a 7.26 ERA in 16 career games (eight starts) against the D-backs.