Big flies highlight Padres' romp

Big flies highlight Padres' romp

SAN FRANCISCO -- In a first half blemished by drastic inconsistency, the Padres were remarkably reliable Sunday. They kept on hitting, kept on pitching well and, in the end, enjoyed something that has mostly eluded them the last three-plus months.

A rare laugher.

A laugher in the sense that All-Star closer Heath Bell pitched the ninth inning, entrusted with an eight-run lead. A laugher that saw these Padres, who were no-hit only two days ago, score a season-high 10 runs, with Will Venable and Kevin Kouzmanoff combining for eight hits and two home runs.

A laugher in the sense that, after slipping badly in recent weeks, after losing several key players to the disabled list and, before Sunday, having lost their last seven games, it was just nice for the Padres to smile again.

No, there probably wasn't a better way for the Padres to kiss the first half goodbye than with the 10-4 victory the team posted over the Giants on a sun-splashed afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd of 41,913 at AT&T Park.

"It was good to get a win like that. ... We haven't had many this season," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It's good for the guys to be in a game like that; it shows we are capable of that. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come."

In order to prevent another 99-loss season like the one the Padres stumbled through last year, they'll need more games like this one where the worst statistical hitting team in the Major Leagues -- in runs scored and batting average -- chased Giants pitcher Barry Zito (5-9) with nine runs after 4 1/3 innings.

By scoring 10 runs, San Diego became the last team in the Major Leagues to hit double-digits for runs in the first half of the season.

Seven Padres had hits, including a career-best four by Venable, who slugged a home run that saw him raise his batting average from .182 to .233 and, if nothing else, allowed him to head home to nearby Marin County with a sense that the second half could be different than the first.

"I think that it's great. We talked today about leaving here with ideas of how we want to improve in the second half," Venable said.

The Padres (36-52) jumped all over Zito (5-9) for three runs in the first inning as Everth Cabrera and Venable opened the game with singles. Kouzmanoff got hold of a hanging breaking ball, sending it over the wall in left-center for a 3-0 lead.

"He had trouble locating. He made mistakes," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Zito. "Two three-run homers, that is tough to overcome. He was off today. Early in the game he made some mistakes up."

The Padres finished with 14 hits and none by Adrian Gonzalez, who heads for his second All-Star Game after going 3-for-27 on this seven-game road trip.

The runs kept coming in the third inning when former Giants catcher Eliezer Alfonzo got a first-pitch fastball from Zito and drove it over the wall in left for a 6-0 lead. That proved to be enough as another former Giant, Kevin Correia, pitched into the sixth inning for his sixth victory of the season.

"It wasn't that big of a deal," Correia said of pitching at AT&T Park for the first time as a visitor. "I felt like it was just another start. I'm comfortable pitching here and that three-run first helped."

Correia fell one out short of what would have been his 11th quality start of the first half -- at least six innings and fewer than four runs. That didn't take the shine off another fine start and a solid first half where he was consistent on a staff that was anything but that.

Correia allowed two one-out singles in the first inning but got Bengie Molina to bounce into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. From there, Correia (6-7), pumping the strike zone with fastballs and curveballs, worked fast, retiring 10 of the next 11 hitters he faced.

Correia, who was used by the Giants from 2003-2008 as a reliever and starter, feels like he has settled into a comfortable -- and steady -- role in the Padres rotation. Sunday's start was his 18th of the season. His career high for starts is 19, a number he should easily surpass.

"I don't think I've started from the first day to the All-Star break," said Correia, who has a 4.50 ERA and leads the staff in innings (104) and starts. "I feel good right now. I have confidence in four pitches right now. I'm real comfortable and confident when I'm out there."

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