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Padres blank Cubs, pad NL West lead

Padres blank Cubs, pad NL West lead

CHICAGO -- It pays to know the ivy, or, at least, that was what Padres right fielder Ryan Ludwick was claiming after he perched himself under a long fly ball with two outs in the bottom of ninth inning on Tuesday.

Ludwick, who certainly has plenty of experience playing at Wrigley Field when he was a member of the Cardinals, closed his glove on the final out of the Padres' 1-0 victory over the Cubs in front of a crowd of 33,664.

Ludwick, his back up against the ivy-covered wall smiled. Heath Bell sighed.

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"My pal in right field ... he's one of the best right fielders ever," Bell said facetiously, and not just because Ludwick is known more for his bat than his glove.

"It's Wrigley Field, and you never know with the wind and all. But we made plays when we needed."

Bell, who got the final three outs for his 36th save, wasn't just referring to Ludwick's grab of Blake DeWitt's fly ball to end the game.

The Padres, who improved to 71-47 and now have a season-best five-game lead in the National League West over the Giants, had a handful of dandy plays that, when combined with Jon Garland's pitching, led to their 15th shutout of the season.

"Part of the reasons we win games is our pitching and defense," said San Diego manager Bud Black, repeating a familiar refrain, though one he never gets tired of talking about. "There have been times when our defense has won us games."

This might have been one of them, though Garland (12-8) could certainly make a strong statement that his right arm had plenty to do with the Padres' 23rd one-run victory of the season.

The Friars managed three hits in the game, scoring in the first inning and then being shut out by Cubs pitcher Randy Wells (5-11) and two relievers.

Garland tossed seven shutout innings, increasing his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 17 by getting 13 groundouts and two double plays turned behind him. He walked three and struck out three and lowered his ERA to 3.25.

"That was a Jon Garland game -- he produced the grounders. His stuff doesn't vary start to start," Black said. "That's who Jon is. The ball sinks."

Garland did benefit from increased use of his curveball and changeup, though the run on his fastball was good and had the ball darting.

He tossed four scoreless innings to finish his start on Aug. 6 against the D-backs, and then followed that with six scoreless innings in his last start against Pittsburgh. He will take that streak of 17 scoreless innings into his start Sunday in Milwaukee.

"These last three games, I've been keeping the ball down and getting ahead of hitters," Garland said. "I don't want to say it's easy, but if you do that, they're at the mercy of you."

The Padres turned double plays behind him in the second and third innings, and each time those ground balls occurred after Garland put the leadoff hitter on.

The Cubs (50-70) got a leadoff double by Xavier Nady in the fourth inning. Nady then moved to third base on a ground ball. DeWitt then lifted a fly ball to shallow left field, but was robbed of a hit by a Will Venable diving catch.

Nady, unsure if the ball was going to be caught, came halfway down the line instead of retreating to the bag to tag up. Garland got Cubs catcher Koyie Hill looking at a called third strike to end the inning.

"Play of the game -- Will Venable," Garland said. "For him to come on like that ... that ball wasn't far behind shortstop."

The defense wasn't done, though. After Garland was gone, relief pitcher Mike Adams allowed the first two hitters in the eighth inning to reach base. But Adams got Marlon Byrd to roll over on a first-pitch slider away for a 6-4-3 double play.

Then came the ninth inning.

Bell, who leads the Major League in saves, struck out Nady and Alfonso Soriano after an Aramis Ramirez leadoff single to start the inning. He then left a curveball a bit out over the plate that DeWitt jumped on. The rest was up to Ludwick.

"I thought it had a chance, at least a chance to get over his head," DeWitt said.

Instead, the ball ended up in Ludwick's glove to end the game, giving the Padres their second victory in as many nights in this four-game series.

"I've played here a lot and have a good feel for the track," Ludwick said. "It was pretty routine. I saw the flight of the ball and I knew I had room."

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

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