'Pen deserves huge assist in Padres' win

'Pen deserves huge assist in Padres' win

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Padres were down, 5-3, in the second inning, and manager Bud Black had pulled starting pitcher Kevin Correia amid some defensive misplays and a general sense of trouble, that's when the Padres felt pretty good about things.

"In the dugout, we were already saying when they took K.C. out: We're going to win this game,'' Adrian Gonzalez said. "We had to just keep battling. We knew what our bullpen was going to do."

Whenever any game gets into the bullpen, the Padres have a distinct advantage. And they had the advantage on Sunday. Four Padres relievers delivered 8 1/3 scoreless innings against the Phillies, and the Padres chipped away and won in extra innings, 6-5.

Padres relievers lead the National League in ERA, strikeouts and have held opposing hitters to a league-low .207 batting average. After the seventh inning this season, the Padres have outscored the opposition, 25-13, they are 6-3 in extra-inning games and are 8-4 in games decided in the last at-bat.

"Do I expect it? Yes. Do I take it for granted? No. Absolutely not,'' Black said. "I know how tough it is to pitch in this league. They have really done a great, great job. Everybody down there has been a contributor.

"Against a team, that from my side looks like they are swinging the bat a lot better and seem to be on the verge of breaking out, our guys just held them in. That was a great job."

After Correia left, trailing 5-3, Sean Gallagher delivered 3 1/3 scoreless innings, tying his longest outing of the season. On his watch the Padres came back to tie it. Ryan Webb delivered two scoreless innings with just one hit to keep it there.

"That's the job -- to go out there and put up zeroes every time,'' said Webb, who has pitched scoreless ball in 12 of his 14 outings this season. "It definitely makes the team stronger. It gives guys a little breathing room, and it gives Buddy a bunch of reliable options -- when he wants to go down there at any given time he can trust us to get the job done."

Mike Adams followed with two more scoreless innings, and finally the Padres broke through. In the 10th, Chase Headley led off with a single, and after a bunt and a groundout Oscar Salazar delivered an infield single that gave the Padres a 6-5 lead. One Heath Bell save later, it was a huge victory.

"A big, big win for us after falling behind like that,'' Bell said. "Every game is critical; it's high intensity for us every game.

"There's not one guy down there that we think isn't capable of getting the job done. That's been a big part of our success; we rely on how well this bullpen pitches. A good bullpen can carry you a long way. Relief pitching in the National League is huge. Those guys make or break your season.

"You see teams put a high priority on offense, but then the bullpen can't hold those leads. When we get a lead, we always feel like we're going to shut them down."

The Padres got offense early, as Gonzalez got them on the board with a two-run homer in the first inning. Headley followed with a double, and Matt Stairs' two-out single gave San Diego a 3-0 lead.

While the Phillies took the lead in the second inning, thanks in part to some unusually shaky defense, the Padres' bullpen kept things in check until San Diego battled back on Gonzalez's RBI single in the fourth and Nick Hundley's leadoff homer in the fifth.

Then it was a question of which bullpen would crack first. It wasn't the Padres' bullpen.

"The bullpen did a tremendous job,'' Headley said. "I feel like with our bullpen, we're playing a six-inning game. If we're ahead after six, there's a good chance we're going to win. If we're within a run or two in the seventh or eighth, we've still got a good chance, because you know they're going to hold them down every time. It's a tremendous weapon to have."

Kevin Roberts is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.