Padres hot, but keeping focus on field

Padres hot, but keeping focus on field

SAN DIEGO -- There was a time to gloat Sunday, a time to revel in the accomplishment of running through their National League West division brethren in a nine-game stretch with results that were certainly more than just admirable.

David Eckstein wanted none of it, and the Padres' second baseman was likely willing to get on a clubhouse chair and share with his teammates, many fresh-faced, 20-something types short on experience, the very same message.

"We have to keep pushing. ... We're not done yet," said Eckstein, reciting the rest of the regular season schedule that is still fraught with games against the Dodgers, Giants and Rockies, the same teams the Padres just rolled through.

"We can't be satisfied."

No, but they can certainly be a little happy and possibly celebrate a little, especially after winning their sixth consecutive series, coming back on Sunday for a 7-3 victory over the Rockies and 15-game winner Jason Marquis before a crowd of 19,739 at PETCO Park.

The Padres (65-79), essentially left for dead after a miserable 8-20 July, are now 27-17 since July 28 and have won 11 of their last 14 series and, with the victory Sunday, went 6-3 against the Dodgers, Giants and Rockies in the last 10 days.

"We talk about it as a group and Eck has talked to guys about it," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We have tried to use it as a measuring stick of teams going up for playoff spots. But our guys can play."

That was evident in the final game of a three-game series against the Rockies (82-62), who are 4 1/2 games ahead of the Giants in the NL Wild Card race and three behind the Dodgers for the NL West lead. Three teams for two spots.

The Padres aren't making things easier on anyone in the division. On Sunday, they were able to chase Marquis (15-11) with three runs on two hits and four walks (one of which was intentional) in the pivotal sixth inning.

Nick Hundley had an RBI infield single in the inning and Tony Gwynn followed with a fly ball that chased home another run. Finally, Marquis walked Everth Cabrera with the bases loaded to force in another run.

A big inning, though certainly not the most important one as far as Black was concerned.

It was the fifth inning that proved critical to the Padres' comeback efforts from a 3-1 deficit that was fueled when Colorado's Garrett Atkins lined a two-run triple to right-center off starting pitcher Clayton Richard.

Richard had an uneven start, allowing three runs in five innings with three walks, though he had eight strikeouts. Here's the rub, too: Richard struck out the last five hitters that he faced, including the side in the fifth inning.

But after Marquis allowed singles to Drew Macias and Hundley to start the bottom of the fifth inning, Black called on Gwynn to drop down a sacrifice bunt while calling Richard back from the dugout -- after 84 pitches, knowing he likely had one more inning in him -- for a pinch-hitter, Edgar Gonzalez.

"I thought it was an opportunity to get a couple of runs. That's why I bunted with Tony," Black said. "The way the bullpen has been throwing, and even with [Luke] Gregerson and [Sean] Gallagher being down, I was thinking that being down two runs ... that was the inning to get a tie or get ahead."

As it turns out, the Padres didn't get either, though Gonzalez's RBI single to right field cut the lead to 3-2 and set the stage for an improbable rally in the sixth inning against Marquis, who suffered a noticeable loss in command and couldn't finish the inning.

"We're playing to win," Black said.

The bullpen, devoid of Gregerson or Gallagher, covered the final four innings as Adam Russell (2-0) struck out two in one inning. Joe Thatcher didn't allow a hit or a run in 1 1/3 innings. Ryan Webb and Luis Perdomo covered the final 1 2/3 innings.

Going back to Aug. 18, Padres relievers have a collective 2.44 ERA, which has lowered their mark of 4.01 on Aug. 17 to 3.73.

Will Venable had a home run, Chase Headley knocked in two runs and All-Star Adrian Gonzalez had three hits, including a triple, as the Padres finished with 13 hits.

"You look at all those games as an overview and you look at starting pitcher and bullpen and solid defense and timely hitting," Black said. "We're moving runners over, getting them to third."

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