Venable's clutch single gives Padres series victory

Venable's clutch single gives Padres series victory

Venable's clutch single gives Padres series victory
SAN DIEGO -- Padres outfielder Will Venable didn't get too many chances in this weekend's series with the Rockies, but when he did, he took advantage.

Colorado started three straight southpaws, meaning the left-handed Venable was the odd-man out as manager Bud Black opted for righties such as Jesus Guzman and Chris Denorfia. But it was Venable, facing a lefty reliever in Matt Reynolds, no less, who delivered the big blow of the day Sunday, a seventh-inning RBI single that sent his Padres to a 3-2 win over the Rockies.

"It's tough for me because [sitting for long stretches] is not something that I've been accustomed to or learned how to do yet. It's nice to have that opportunity to get a big knock," Venable said.

That knock gave San Diego its sixth victory in its last eight series, and 12th victory in 18 games in July. The Padres won 12 games in a month only one other time this season, in June, when it took them until the final day of the month to make it a dozen.

Part of that success can be attributed to the clutch play of players who, like Venable this weekend, may not always be in the lineup, but are taking advantage of opportunities to contribute.

Take catcher John Baker, who guided Padres starter Ross Ohlendorf through 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball Sunday. Baker's last start came Wednesday against Houston, and the lefty has started just four games this month. But in addition to maneuvering Ohlendorf to a quality start, the left-handed Baker tied the game with a two-out fourth-inning RBI single off Rockies starter Christian Friedrich.

"It's tough, but I've had a lot of practice this year [sitting and then performing]," Baker said. "I owe a lot to [hitting coaches] Phil Plantier and Alonso Powell helping me figure out how to do it, because it's not easy to do."

Baker's single drove in Everth Cabrera, who reached base three times in the game with a walk and two singles. Cabrera, who is a perfect 18 for 18 in stolen bases this season, wreaked havoc on the basepaths, advancing two bases on an errant pickoff throw and once on a wild pitch to key the Padres. He also slammed hard into Rockies catcher Jordan Pacheco as he headed for home following Baker's single, knocking the ball away and securing the run.

"There's an inherent aggressiveness to [Cabrera's] game, especially on the basepaths," Black said. "He is fearless. And good baserunners have that in them ... The tempo he sets on the bases is disruptive to the opposition."

Cabrera had ample opportunity to disrupt the Rockies this weekend, going 7-for-11 in the three games. His two hits Sunday paced the Padres, who also got hits from Chase Headley and Alexi Amarista to go with the RBI knocks from Venable and Baker. Headley's first-inning sacrifice fly drove in Amarista with San Diego's first run.

That run tied the game for the Padres, who saw the Rockies jump out to a 1-0 lead with two consecutive hits to start the game. But after those early-inning struggles, Ohlendorf settled in, striking out six and scattering five hits while going deep into the ballgame to give a beleaguered Padres bullpen some much-needed rest.

"I did know that I needed to pitch deep into the game, but I always want to pitch deep into the game," Ohlendorf said. "I don't think I really changed my approach ... I felt like the ball was coming out well in the first two innings, but the results were just much better the rest of the game."

"They shut us down offensively today," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "We get four hits in the first two innings and one over the course of the next seven. When your three, four, five and six hitters don't get anything, it's going to make for a tough day offensively."

Thanks to Ohlendorf's longevity, only two Padres relievers -- Dale Thayer and Huston Street -- were required to nail down the win. Thayer was the winning pitcher, going 1 1/3 innings of no-hit ball. That paved the way for Street, who capped a perfect ninth with an agile play on a Josh Rutledge grounder to grab his 16th save in 16 opportunities this year. Street has not allowed a run in his last 13 2/3 innings of work, holding batters to an .048 average (2 for 42) over that span.

Street's effort was the final act of a performance the Padres have seen quite a few times this month: a team effort in which contributions from all over the lineup and bench add up to victory.

"All year we've talked about timely hitting, good pitching," Black said. "Today was a culmination of all that."

Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.