If anyone would know the key to hot hitting, it would be Alonso, who is 7-for-19 since the All-Star break after going 2-for-4 on Wednesday. Both hits were doubles, his 22nd and 23rd of the year, good for the most among all Major League rookies. It's the seventh time this season that the 23-year-old has hit two or more doubles in a game, and sets a club record, eclipsing Adrian Gonzalez's and Tony Gwynn's single-season marks of six.
"It's cool," Alonso said of the record. "Right now you don't really think about it too much, but I think after the season you'll be able to look back and say 'wow.' ... Obviously, putting my name in front of those guys is pretty special for me."
Alonso's first double came as part of a five-run, four-hit fourth inning, the Padres' second-biggest run output in a single frame this season. But as they have so well of late, the Padres' tacked on, particularly in the fifth, when Chase Headley tried to set a record of his own.
Headley was taking his lead off first after smacking his second single of the day when Astros' reliever Enerio Del Rosario made a pickoff attempt. The ball bounced so far away from first baseman Matt Downs that Headley was waved around second. Downs tried to gun down Headley and did, in a manner of speaking: His throw bounced off Headley's back and up the foul line, giving Headley time to sprint home.
"I was trying to set a record for most slides on one play," Headley joked. "I was pretty tired. ... I was glad it was over when it finally ended."
When it ended, the Padres' had spotted starter Clayton Richard (7-10), the National League leader in innings pitched (135 1/3), with a six-run lead. That was more than enough for Richard, who came up just short of a complete game, scattering nine hits in 8 1/3 innings to earn the victory. The lone blot on his record was put there by Downs, who tallied his first career multi-homer game with a three-run shot in the sixth and a solo shot in the ninth. In 12 career at-bats against Richard, Downs now has four hits, three of them homers.
"If you guys figure out how to get him out, let me know," Richard said of the man manager Bud Black has deemed the lefty's nemesis. "He's hit a fastball, a slider and a cutter, so next time I'll throw him a knuckleball."
But even Downs could not wreak nearly enough havoc to ruin another strong outing from Richard, who is 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA over his last eight starts. Though he had only two strikeouts, he continued to show the pinpoint control he has displayed all year, walking none while getting many quick swings and outs.
"I don't think you ever make a pitch hoping someone's going to hit it. I think it's more working aggressively toward the glove, down in the zone," Richard said of his recent knack of getting outs by contact. "You want to make pitches to where if they do hit it, it's a mis-hit."
Richard's opponent, Wandy Rodriguez (7-8), was knocked from the game after just 66 pitches by that explosive five-run fourth inning, a victim of a Padres' lineup that seems to be clicking on all cylinders.
Alonso and Headley had two hits apiece to pace San Diego, and Alexi Amarista extended his hitting streak to seven games with a 1-for-5 afternoon. Carlos Quentin also added a hit and an RBI, and Chris Denorfia drove in two with a bases-loaded single in the fourth.
Perhaps the only negative of the Padres' day was the late scratch of Cameron Maybin, who was penciled into center field but removed after experiencing soreness in his right wrist while taking pregame swings.
Yet the Padres have been hitting, regardless of who is in the lineup (or out of it), and that's something Black believes may be part of that elusive secret to his team's newly discovered offensive prowess.
"We've talked about it: It's going to take all our guys to get it done," Black said. "Today was a perfect example of a lineup contributing top to bottom. ... It's good baseball."