Richard rolls to close road trip on high note

Richard rolls to close road trip on high note

Richard rolls to close road trip on high note
OAKLAND -- A hitless afternoon with three strikeouts Sunday dropped Nick Hundley's average to .164, the lowest point it's been since the first week of the season.

This is a slump Hundley wouldn't wish on his worst enemy. It has tried his conviction and it's frustrated him to no end. But the one thing it hasn't done is affect the way the Padres' catcher has handled the other aspect of his job.

That was evident Sunday, as the Padres assured themselves of a winning record on this road trip with a 2-1 victory over the A's before a crowd of 21,631 at the Oakland Coliseum, as San Diego starting pitcher Clayton Richard tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings for his second road win in a week.

The key to Richard's success Sunday?

"I pretty much threw whatever Nick called," Richard said.

He wasn't kidding, as for the second time in five days Richard used most of his postgame gathering with reporters to gush about the way Hundley called a game, how he set up hitters, how he blocked balls in the dirt and how his performance, offense be damned, shouldn't be undervalued.

"It's so important to have a catcher who is in tune with what's going on," Richard said. "When you see a pitcher having a good game ... 99 percent of the reason why is because the catcher called a great game."

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Richard, coming off a game where he allowed one run over seven innings at Seattle, allowed five hits against the A's (31-36). He struck out six, walked two and got 13 ground-ball outs, the result of burying his slider and fastball in the strike zone.

"Clayton was outstanding," Padres manager Bud Black said.

Outstanding, Black felt, because of what he was able to do with his left arm and because he was able to trust Hundley, a relationship that dates back to 2009 when Richard was acquired from the White Sox in the Jake Peavy deal, a relationship that has blossomed each season since.

"I think me and Clayton have grown a lot together," Hundley said. "I know he trusts my preparation and I know I can ask him to do things that I believe in and he'll do them ... and execute them."

Case in point, Sunday:

"Every curveball I called in the dirt, he threw it there," Hundley said. "Every 0-2 fastball up was up in the strike zone enough that they couldn't get to it. He didn't miss in the middle of the plate all day."

Richard seldom found himself stressed, thanks in large part to some strong defense behind him. In the fourth inning, Richard hit Josh Reddick with a pitch and then allowed a single to Jonny Gomes. Brandon Inge then grounded a ball in the hole between shortstop and third base. Shortstop Everth Cabrera ranged far to his right for the ball and threw out the lead runner at third base.

The next batter, Collin Cowgill, did the very same thing and Cabrera obliged, again tossing out the lead runner on a difficult play.

"He made a lot of big pitches and he never gave in," said Padres closer Huston Street, who got the final four outs for his eighth save of the season, although he allowed a ninth-inning run before striking out Jemile Weeks to end the game.

Before the A's scored that run -- on a two-out, RBI single by Coco Crisp -- Cabrera made a nice play on a chopper by Cowgill over Street's head to open the frame, otherwise the inning might have ended differently.

"Our defense played phenomenal," Richard said.

The resurgent offense, one that has seen the Padres score four or more runs six times on this trip, went missing Sunday, as San Diego (24-43) managed five hits against five A's pitchers, the first of which, Bartolo Colon, left the game in the third inning with a strained right oblique muscle.

Cabrera singled to start the third inning and scored on a fielders' choice as Will Venable reached base on a ground ball. The second run lacked style points as well, as Carlos Quentin started the ninth inning with a double and was replaced by pinch-runner Logan Forsythe.

Yonder Alonso moved Forsythe to third base with a sacrifice bunt. Cameron Maybin then struck out looking for the first out, and with Hundley at the plate, A's reliever Ryan Cook let loose a wild pitch that allowed Forsythe to score, giving the Padres a 2-0 lead.

The Padres return home to start a three-game series against the Rangers on Monday night at Petco Park. They will do so on the heels of a 5-4 road swing to Milwaukee, Seattle and Oakland. Those five victories match their road win total through their first 24 games on the road (5-19).

"We haven't been good on the road the first 2 1/2 months," Black said. "This sets a good tone as we move forward. We're starting to see some continuity with guys moving forward. And I sense that, aside from today, we're swinging the bats better and playing good defensively."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.