Richard fans 10 as Padres rout Rox

Richard fans 10 as Padres rout Rox

SAN DIEGO -- In regards to the here and now, the 14 hits and 13 runs the Padres scored Wednesday in a victory over the Rockies was plenty to ensure a warm feeling for the crowd of 24,519 at PETCO Park.

From a big-picture perspective, though, the real story might well have been the Padres curious knack for avoiding what would have been a rare three-game losing skid, something that, apparently happens about as often as Halley's Comet.

The Padres, now 46-32 and closing in on the official halfway point of the season, have only had one three-game losing streak all season.

How rare is that?

The Yankees, Rays and Rockies are the only other teams in the Major Leagues who have not lost more than three consecutive games this season. The Rays and Rockies have each had four, three-game losing streaks. The Yankees have had three.

For the Padres, the lone blight on their record in regard to the streak, occurred from May 14-16 when they dropped three games against the Dodgers.

What does this mean?

In simple terms, it means the best ERA of any staff in the Major Leagues (3.10) is good enough to prevent long losing skids.

The fact that Wednesday's starter, Clayton Richard (6-4), helped the Padres bounce back after the first two losses of the series with 10 strikeouts over seven innings certainly contributed to that rationale.

But there's more to it than that, insisted Padres manager Bud Black. More than merely a bunch of numbers on paper, something that's tough to quantify but something that carries immeasurable clout -- confidence.

"The players sense that every day we have a starting pitcher who is capable of beating the opposition," Black said. "That's a great thing to walk into a clubhouse and know that. It's really a testament to how consistently we've played."

That kind of confidence hasn't always been plentiful in the Padres' clubhouse. It was just last season, during a tortuous June (9-17) and July (8-20) when they not only scuffled on the field but were deficient in confidence in the clubhouse as well.

"When we went in that rough stretch last year, we didn't have that confident feeling as a unit," Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn said. "But now you see it. You see how well we're playing, how loose we are.

"When you have pitching like that, you can only gain confidence."

On Wednesday, Richard, typically a ground-ball specialist, reached a career-high with his 10 strikeouts. Richard yielded two runs in the second inning and cruised from there as the Rockies (41-37) went quietly thereafter.

Richard's ERA is now at 2.74, which puts him in good company with fellow starters Mat Latos (2.85), Jon Garland (3.13) and Wade LeBlanc (3.25).

"It's not just one guy we have that's doing it," Richard said. "Every day we come in here and look at our lineup, look at their lineup and we're excited to play the game. If we do our jobs ... we know we're going to win."

Black said this starting rotation, one that's largely been responsible to keeping the losing streaks at a minimum, has been about as good as he's had in his four seasons. He pointed to the first half of 2007, when the Padres used Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Greg Maddux, David Wells and Justin Germano as a comparable staff.

"This is as good of depth as we've had since '07," Black said.

That team had a 49-38 record at the All-Star break and a 3.12 ERA. They faltered in the second half and, of course as many know by now, came up short in the one-game playoff to get into the postseason.

They haven't been back since. The Padres would like to think that this kind of pitching, and the defense they've played, is sustainable. Only time will tell, of course. But there certainly are times when the offense shows a spark.

The Padres used a six-run outburst in the fourth inning against Jeff Francis (2-3) for the victory after dropping two of the first three games to the Rockies. Several of the hits in the innings weren't exactly well-struck, not that Francis used that as an excuse.

"Bloop hits or not, if you're falling behind everybody it's no one's fault but my own," Francis said.

The Padres won big even though they played without Adrian Gonzalez (day off) and Will Venable (lower back strain) in the lineup. Instead, four different players each had two hits, including Scott Hairston, who drove in four runs.

"It was good for us to swing the bat," said leadoff hitter, Jerry Hairston Jr., who knocked in two runs, scored two runs and walked twice.

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