Saturday night's win over the Cardinals as good as it gets

Both ends of the 7th inning qualify as classics

Saturday night's win over the Cardinals as good as it gets

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Saturday night was perfect for the Padres.

I don't mean that sarcastically. It's the truth. It's a great day when it all comes together for a baseball team before a large crowd -- specifically the eighth-largest crowd (44,816) in the 12-year history of Petco Park.

"That was a pretty special win," Padres manager Pat Murphy said, after the Padres scored an 8-0 win over a St. Louis Cardinals club that owns the best record in the Major Leagues.

And it wasn't just the fact San Diego scored a second straight win over St. Louis -- making the Padres the only team in the National League with a winning record against the Cards this season.

It was how they won ... and how the fans reacted.

Murphy even stole a page from the Cardinals' time-tested formula for success -- using three relievers while going righty-lefty-righty for matchups at a key juncture of the game in the seventh, before blowing apart a one-run pitching duel with seven runs in the home half of the inning.

"The seventh was one of those innings that blew up on us," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, not specifically identifying the top or the bottom of perhaps the greatest single inning of the Padres' season.

We'll break it down ...

Top of the seventh: With the Padres clinging to a 1-0 lead, the Cardinals opened the inning with back-to-back hits against Padres starter Ian Kennedy to put runners at the corners with no one out. Here's where Murphy went to work as a manager.

With Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez (12-6) hitting, Murphy brought in right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley, who struck out Martinez on three pitches after the right-handed pitcher failed to get down a bunt.

That brought up Kolten Wong, who entered the game two innings earlier after second baseman Matt Carpenter was ejected by home-plate umpire Chris Segal for arguing a called third strike. To counter the left-handed-hitting Wong, Murphy brought in left-handed specialist Marc Rzepczynski, who struck out the struggling infielder (four hits in his previous 33 at-bats) on five pitches.

Next up was right-handed-hitting left fielder Stephen Piscotty, who had already struck out twice to end innings with a runner in scoring position. Murphy countered this time with right-handed reliever Bud Norris, who got Piscotty on a called third strike after a seven-pitch battle.

Norris escapes a jam

"That's how we scripted it ... and how it came out was very emotional in that situation," said Murphy.

Matheny agreed and tipped his cap to the Padres.

"That inning took some wind out of our sails, for sure," said Matheny. "We've been on the other side of that and it's like your back is up against the wall and you make some great pitches, make some great plays and get out of a situation that looks like it's inevitable for a run or two to come through.

"You feed off that. That's exactly what happened to us tonight."

"That was the turning point," said Kelley of the Padres' 1-2-3 punch in the top half of the seventh. "It was exciting. There was a lot of energy in the dugout after we got out of the seventh. It's nice to have a lefty like Rzepczynski to go to. That kind of establishes roles."

Bottom of the seventh: The Padres scored seven runs (four earned) against Martinez and three relievers. San Diego sent 11 hitters to the plate and got seven hits.

Padres score seven in 7th

The win was the Padres' fifth straight, and they are 9-2 over the last 11 games to move to within one game of .500 for the first time since June 14. The win also clinched the Padres' first winning season against the Cardinals -- 4-2 going into Sunday's series finale -- since 2006.

FROM THE SCORECARD

• Corner outfielders Justin Upton and Matt Kemp each had a two-run hit in the Padres' seven-run seventh, marking the first time this season that Kemp and Upton had multiple RBIs in the same game. The Padres are 21-2 this season when both outfielders have an RBI in the same game -- including a 14-game winning streak in that scenario.

• Speaking of 14 games, that's how long Kemp's hitting streak is after Saturday night. Kemp is hitting .375 (21-for-56) during the longest hitting streak of the Padres' season,th four home runs and 15 RBIs. Included during the streak is the first cycle in Padres history.

• Kennedy had a season-high 10 strikeouts over six-plus innings on Saturday night. It was the eighth game in his career he recorded 10 or more strikeouts. The scoreless outing also meant Kennedy's string of allowing at least one homer in 12 straight starts ended. Over his last six starts, Kennedy is 4-2 with a 2.38 earned run average.

• The Padres' staff had 16 strikeouts, their highest total this season. The shutout was San Diego's fourth of the season.

• Catcher Derek Norris left the game in the eighth, when a third-strike pitch from right-handed reliever Kevin Quackenbush hit him on the inside of his left wrist just above the mitt. X-rays were negative, but Norris suffered a bruise. Earlier, Norris tripled for his 42nd extra-base hit of the season, the highest total for any Major League catcher this season. Backup Austin Hedges was already scheduled to catch on Sunday.

• Center fielder Travis Jankowski is 4-for-8 with three RBIs and two runs scored in his first two Major League games. He is the seventh player in Padres history to have at least one RBI in each of his first two Major League games. He is only the third player in franchise history to have two hits in each of his first two games.