Volquez shuts down D-backs to capture series

Gyorko, Venable go back-to-back to pad Padres' lead in sixth

Volquez shuts down D-backs to capture series

SAN DIEGO -- It was a heavy lifting day Sunday for Padres rookie Jedd Gyorko -- both on and off the field.

On the field, Gyorko hit his first home run at Petco Park as the Padres defeated the D-backs, 5-1, before a crowd of 29,101 as San Diego took two of three games vs. Arizona.

After the game, the second baseman kept reporters waiting with a postgame weightlifting session that sure didn't seem like the greatest way to celebrate his big hit and a series victory.

"Sorry," Gyorko said, smiling.

There's no reason to apologize for the way Gyorko is swinging the bat, as his home run and the pitching of starter Edinson Volquez were the tipping points in the Padres' eighth victory in their last 11 games.

Two innings after spinning himself into the ground while he struck out on a nasty changeup by D-backs starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, Gyorko got another shot at a Kennedy floater in the sixth inning with one on, sending a ball into the upper deck in left field.

"He left a changeup up in the zone … it was the same pitch he got me out on before. He struck me out before on a good changeup. You don't see many right-on-right changeups," Gyorko said.

For Gyorko, who is hitting .340 over his last 13 games, these at-bats were essentially a microcosm of the rookie experience -- for worse and, as was the case Sunday, for better.

"I'm pretty much seeing a lot of things I haven't seen before," Gyorko said. "My memory bank is getting filled up."

It wasn't all that long ago when Gyorko was scuffling. He was hitless in two road games in San Francisco a month ago and got a start off. He was hitting .210 when the Padres were swept by the Giants, the last an 0-for-4 performance with two strikeouts, on April 21.

After Sunday's game, Gyorko is hitting .268.

"Early on, I was getting a few hits here and there, but my timing felt off," Gyorko said. "I wasn't barreling up too many balls. Then there was a four- or five-game stretch where I was lining out. The balls are starting to find holes."

It was only a matter of time, Padres manager Bud Black said, before Gyorko started bunching his hits together.

"Jedd's a very instinctual player, a very good competitor," Black said. "He figures things out. I think the learning curve will work quicker for him than some."

Gyorko wasn't the only Padre to put some lessons from April into practice and see good results Sunday.

Volquez, who also scuffled early in the season, allowed one run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings. He worked deep into a game on the same day the Padres lost another starter, Clayton Richard, to the disabled list with a nasty intestinal virus and with the bullpen two men down because of use on Saturday.

"We didn't have anything going at all," said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson. "[We] didn't make any adjustments to what he was doing. He was throwing us a lot of offspeed pitches and [we were] just kind of out front and didn't have a good approach and it showed. We only had four hits."

Volquez is 3-0 with a 2.49 ERA in his last four starts.

"Starting pitching is so critical to a team's success," Black said. "We've seen the early-count strikes from Volky and the secondary pitches for strikes. ... You put it all together and you have three wins and a lot of zeros."

Volquez has worked closely with pitching coach Darren Balsley on streamlining his delivery and keeping his head still. The results have mostly led to better results.

"Everything was working today and I got a lot of ground balls," said Volquez, who got 11 ground-ball outs.

What those starts, and a much better offense, have given the Padres (13-18) lately is more than just a semblance of hope as the season moves into its second month. Starting pitchers are mostly working deeper into games, the offense has been better and the team is scoring runs in bunches.

Take Sunday against Kennedy (1-3), who was 7-1 in his first 11 starts at Petco Park. The Padres got to him for two runs in the first inning as Chase Headley had an RBI single and Yonder Alonso knocked in another run with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in left field.

Then in the sixth inning, Headley was hit by a pitch before Gyorko hit his second home run of the year. Will Venable followed with another home run, this one down the right-field line, and that was it for Kennedy and the D-backs (16-15).

"I thought we laid off some borderline pitches, some pitches the last couple of years that Padres hitters would have swung at," Black said. "To a man, every pitch was a good battle."

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