Garland, Stairs propel Padres to 7-6 win over Rockies to keep their slim NL West lead

By Pat Graham, AP
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Division-leading Padres fend off Rockies, 7-6

DENVER — Jon Garland threw seven sharp innings, pinch-hitter Matt Stairs hit a two-run homer in the eighth and the San Diego Padres hung on to beat the Colorado Rockies 7-6 on Tuesday night to maintain their slim lead in the NL West.

The Padres came into the contest with a half-game lead over the Giants, who played Los Angeles later in the night.

The Rockies, who had their 10-game winning streak halted the night before, tumbled again, dropping them 3½ games behind San Diego. They remain 3½ games behind Atlanta in the NL wild-card race after the Braves were beaten 6-0 by Washington.

San Diego tweaked the lineup Tuesday, inserting Aaron Cunningham into the leadoff spot. The results were immediate as Cunningham finished with three hits, including a double, and two runs scored.

Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick each added RBI singles in the first. Tejada has now driven in five runs through two of the three games in this pivotal NL West matchup.

David Eckstein’s two-run double in the fourth staked the Padres to a 4-0 lead and they made it hold up despite a rally by Colorado. Stairs added some insurance with his major-league best 22nd pinch-hit homer of his career.

Garland (14-11) snapped a three-game slide, allowing three runs — one earned — and four hits. He also helped himself at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a walk and a double.

San Diego relievers Mike Adams and Joe Thatcher couldn’t quiet Colorado in the eighth. With two on and two out, Thatcher gave up a run-scoring single to NL MVP candidate Carlos Gonzalez, who swung so hard on the pitch prior that he banged up his right thumb.

With Troy Tulowitzki up, the Padres brought in closer Heath Bell, who diffused the situation by getting Tulowitzki to fly out. Bell pumped his fist as he left the mound.

Nick Hundley had an RBI sacrifice fly in the ninth providing a little cushion for the Padres.

Bell needed it as he was shaky in the ninth, giving up an RBI double to Melvin Mora after Todd Helton led off the inning with a double. Jay Payton later singled in a run as well, making it a 7-6 game.

But Bell got Eric Young Jr. to ground into a game-ending double play to earn his 29th straight save and 42nd overall.

The Rockies took advantage of sloppy fielding by the Padres to score three times in the fourth.

Adrian Gonzalez was charged with an error in the inning, so was center fielder Will Venable when he bobbled a single by Dexter Fowler, allowing the runners to move up.

Carlos Gonzalez followed with a two-run double off the glove of Adrian Gonzalez. Helton later brought in a run on a sacrifice fly to deep center.

Jason Hammel (10-8) had runners on base all night, giving up four runs and a season-high 10 hits in four innings, his shortest outing since late June.

Hammel was helped out, though, by getting the Padres to hit into three inning-ending double plays.

San Diego jumped all over Hammel in the opening inning with three straight singles, including Tejada’s RBI hit to right.

An error by Young loaded the bases for Ludwick, who laced a shot to deep right. Only one run scored, though, as the runners held up to see if Seth Smith tracked down the baseball.

Hammel staunched the rally, striking out Chase Headley and then getting Hundley to roll into a 5-4-3 double play.

Notes: Rockies MGR Jim Tracy usually opens his pregame chat with the status of his ailing players. On Tuesday, he grinned and said he didn’t have anything medically to discuss — other than maybe himself. Tracy is battling a cold. … Helton hit his 526th career double in the ninth, tying him for 34th place with Dave Parker on the all-time list. … Three of Stairs’ four homers this season have come in a pinch-hitting capacity.

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