Then they ran into Josh Johnson and the Marlins' offense. The result was a 10-1 loss, the Padres' worst of the season.
"Right from the get-go, [Johnson] was on, and we just couldn't get the momentum back at all," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He made sure of that." Added outfielder Will Venable, who struck out three times against Johnson: "The last thing we want to do is dwell on the fact that we got beat. What we need to think about is that it's going to be a long time before it happens again."
Right-hander Mat Latos, coming off his first victory in his past six decisions, lasted just 2 2/3 innings in absorbing the loss. He gave up seven hits and three walks, which the Marlins parlayed into seven runs.
"He just couldn't string together any pitches consecutively," Black said. "His stuff was good -- he had sharpness to his breaking ball -- but he couldn't repeat his delivery, his release point."
As an example, Black noted that Latos was doing well against Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins' superstar No. 3 hitter, in the first inning until he left a pitch over the plate that was intended to be a tease.
The result -- a Ramirez home run. And the Marlins were off to the races on this night.
In fact, Latos said the best thing he will take from the game is that he didn't lose his composure -- as he would occasionally do last season -- when the game was getting away from him and the Padres.
"I didn't show any emotion," Latos said. "That's better than I handled it last year."
Latos thought he had good movement on his pitches, but he acknowledged that he lacked consistency. He was particularly peeved at having issued a walk with the bases loaded in the Marlins' fateful third inning.
"That's not something I've ever done," Latos said.
While Latos was going through a distinct learning experience, Johnson had little trouble with the Padres. The Marlins' ace allowed just three hits and walked one, striking out 12 in a complete-game effort. San Diego's run came in the eighth inning on Nick Hundley's double and a one-out sacrifice fly from Matt Stairs.
Johnson also drove in three runs and collected three hits.
"He had it all going," Black said, ruefully.
Venable said Johnson would get ahead with his fastball, then put hitters away with his slider. That is, until the 6-foot-7 right-hander sprung a changeup on him as he struck out Venable a third time.
Venable suspected later that Johnson had been saving that pitch for a situation to surprise someone. And he was right.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who had hit a home run in each of his past four games, went hitless in two at-bats. The Padres pinch-hit Oscar Salazar for Gonzalez in the sixth inning, at which point the score was 9-0.
"I thought it was a good chance to give Oscar some swings," Black said. "You're going to have these type of games once in a while, and you've got to use your bench. I thought that was the time to do it."
It also gave Black a chance to give Gonzalez some unexpected rest.
"These are kind of like my days off," Gonzalez said. "If a situation gets out of hand, they can give me off. That way, I don't have to have a full day off later in the year." Gonzalez acknowledged that it was Johnson's night, but he said the Padres are a resilient group.
"This was just one of those games that happens once in a while," Gonzalez said. "We'll be ready to play tomorrow."
Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less