Benoit-Kimbrel form imposing late-inning tandem

Notes on Ross, Hedges, Upton, Kemp, Gyorko

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

The Padres Wednesday night ran their record to 46-0 when leading after eight innings.

The reason for the Padres success -- they are one of five National League teams to be undefeated when leading after eight innings -- is in large part the success of the late-inning, bullpen tandem of setup man Joaquin Benoit and closer Craig Kimbrel.

The pair have worked in tandem - Benoit followed by Kimbrel - 35 times this season and the Padres are 31-4 in those games. It should be noted that Benoit and Kimbrel have not always worked in tandem when the Padres led or just in the eighth and ninth innings.

When they appear in tandem, they have a combined earned run average of 1.80.

In tandem, the pair have allowed 14 runs on 34 hits and 19 walks with 76 strikeouts in 70 innings. On Wednesday, Benoit and Kimbrel each had a strikeout in a scoreless inning.

Benoit picked up his 25th hold Wednesday night. That is the third-highest total in the National League.

Kimbrel successfully converted his 36th save in 38 opportunities. Both times Kimbrel blew a save, the Padres won in extra innings.

The 36th save moved Kimbrel into a tie for 10th on the Padres all-time save list with Lance McCullers - although he is still 516 shy of all-time franchise leader Trevor Hoffman.

FROM THE SCORECARD:

-- Tyson Ross has both the lowest earned run average (3.42) and the highest batting average (.244) among Padres starting pitchers with more than five starts. For good measure, he has also handled the most balls on defense. Ross evened his record at 9-9 and tied James Shields for the team lead in wins Wednesday night against the Nationals. Ross is tied with Shields for the team lead with 27 starts and is second to Shields in innings pitched (158) and strikeouts (169). As a hitter, Ross 11-for-45 with a double, a triple and a home run for three RBIs. He also leads the Padres with eight sacrifice bunts. Ross didn't allow a homer Wednesday and has allowed only five in 158 this season - a Major League-leading rate of 0.28-homer-per-nine-innings. Ross's swing-and-miss rate of 31.2 percent is the fifth-best mark among Major League starters this season.

-- Catcher Austin Hedges was 2-for-4 with a run scored Wednesday night and is 14-for-53 (.264) since July 2, raising his batting average from .119 to .196. He has caught in eight of the last nine starts made by Ross. The pitcher has a 2.90 earned run average when Hedges is catching compared to a 3.70 ERA when Derek Norris is catching. Hedges' overall catcher's ERA is 3.56 - the second-best mark among Major League rookies and the ninth-best mark among all National League catchers.

-- Before he hit the first of his two home runs Wednesday night off Nationals left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez, Padres left fielder Justin Upton was struggling this season both on the road and against left-handed pitchers. He had been hitting .207 (46-for-222) on the road with five home runs and 27 RBIs. And he had been hitting .174 (15-for-86) against left-handed pitchers with two homers and seven RBIs. On the flip side, Upton is hitting .306 at Petco Park this season with 15 homers and 40 RBIs. And he is hitting .278 against right-handed pitchers with 19 homers and 61 RBIs.

-- Right fielder Matt Kemp has 18 RBIs in his last 12 games following his two-run double Wednesday night in front of Upton's two-run homer. The Padres are 21-2 when both Kemp and Justin Upton get RBIs in the same game and Wednesday was the second time this season - and the second time in less than a week - that the pair had multiple RBIs in the same game.

-- Jedd Gyorko was 1-for-4 Wednesday to stretch his hitting streak to six straight games. He is 7-for-21 during the streak with a double and Tuesday night's two homers for three RBIs.