Venable's homer powers Padres behind sharp Stults

Momentum grows as more solid pitching lifts Friars to third straight

Venable's homer powers Padres behind sharp Stults

SAN DIEGO -- It wasn't the heavy marine layer that rolled in off the Pacific Ocean that got Will Venable on Tuesday, nor was it the expansive dimensions of pitching-friendly Petco Park that, momentarily, at least, left him crestfallen.

When Venable turned on a fastball in the second inning, he was certain he got enough to cause damage -- home run or otherwise. Then he saw Marlins right fielder Marcell Ozuna raise his arms in the air after apparently losing the ball and suddenly all bets were off.

"I was disappointed that I didn't hit it better at that point," he said.

As it turns out, Venable's first thought proved to be the right one, as his missing fly ball ended up in the right-field stands in the second inning for a two-run home run that went a long ways in the Padres' 5-1 victory over the Marlins before a crowd of 16,2623.

Venable's home run was part of a three-run second that essentially did in the Marlins (10-24), with the Padres (15-18) winning for the 10th time in their last 13 games. The Padres will go for the series sweep on Wednesday.

The Venable was-it-or-wasn't-it home run was the talk of the clubhouse, though there was more than just a passing nod to the pitching of the Padres, as starter Eric Stults (3-2) allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings with the bullpen taking care of the rest.

During this blissful 13-game run, the Padres pitching staff -- not too long ago, the scourge of the team after a handful of short and ineffective starts in April -- has a 3.43 ERA. Better still, over the last three games, the Padres have allowed two runs.

"This is a good sign of where the pitching is headed," said Padres manager Bud Black. "The consistency of the starting pitching is starting to build a little momentum."

A little early offense made sure Stults didn't feel the burden of pitching quite so fine, as Yonder Alonso gave the team a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a sacrifice fly.

Then in the second inning, Jedd Gyorko singled and was at first base when Venable turned on a pitch from Marlins starting pitcher Alex Sanabia (2-5).

"I thought, off the bat, that he crushed it," Gyorko said. "Then I saw the right fielder run for the ball and that threw me off."

Ozuna ranged in and to his left, toward the right-field foul line and searched the sky for Venable's ball. He never found it. First, he raised his arms in the air. Seconds later, Venable's ball landed in the porch area in right field, good for his fourth home run of the season.

Even Venable was initially fooled by Ozuna's actions.

"[First-base coach Dave Roberts] said he lost it and to keep running," Venable said.

From the dugout, Black did the one thing many of the fans and even many of the players didn't do -- he tracked the towering fly ball with his eyes.

"I followed the ball. They were both in my sight line -- the ball and the outfielder -- so I knew right away he didn't see it," Black said. "I thought off the bat it was going to be a home run. I knew we were in pretty good shape when he had his hands in the air and he didn't see the ball.

"I knew one way or the other it was going to be a good result. It was going to be a good outcome there. Then when the ball landed in the seats like I originally thought, I thought it was the best result possible -- a two-run homer for Will to get the lead to 3-0."

Stults, who allowed seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts, got a handful of good defensive plays made behind him to keep him from many sticky situations. In 21 starts with the team since last May, he is now 11-5 with a 3.48 ERA.

"I felt good," he said. "I tried to use the Marlins' aggressiveness [against them]. I tried to keep them off-balanced. But I can't say enough about our defense."

Third baseman Chase Headley smothered a ball hit by Miguel Olivo to start the first inning on a diving attempt, recovering in time to throw him out at first base. Shortstop Everth Cabrera made a spinning, off-balanced throw to get Justin Ruggiano to end the eighth inning.

Headley, Alonso and Venable each had two hits. Headley extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the first inning. Venable knocked in another run in the eighth inning on a grounder to give the Padres a four-run cushion, which also allowed them to give closer Huston Street the night off.

As for the Marlins, things couldn't be worse.

Sanabia, who allowed three earned runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings, departed the game with tightness in his right groin. Later in the game, second baseman Chris Valaika left the game with what was termed a small fracture of the left wrist after making contact with Alonso, who was stealing second base.

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.