Sensing early on that his sinker was dancing, right-hander Jason Marquis went to that particular pitch over and over and got big results in the Padres' 6-2 victory over the Dodgers before 40,040 at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night..
Marquis had a no-hitter going before allowing a two-out double to Skip Schumaker in the sixth inning. He ended up allowing two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, with the bullpen getting the last eight outs in the game to preserve the victory.
How good was Marquis' sinker? He got nine ground-ball outs. He mixed in a slider a few times against the Dodgers (25-33), but it was the sinker that got the most results.
"I've been working really hard to find a consistent delivery. I was able to do that tonight. The execution of my sinker was where I wanted it," Marquis said. "When I have a good one like that, I like to use it a lot. The sinker is my bread and butter."
Marquis, who continues to provide a solid return on the one-year, $3 million contract that he signed in December, improved to 7-2 while lowering his ERA to 3.73 after 12 starts.
"Tonight, we saw the legit sinker," said Padres manager Bud Black. "He was pounding it in on the righties and away from the lefties. It was a lot of sinker and sliders down underneath."
As is often the case in no-hit bids, Marquis had a handful of nice defensive plays made behind him.
Second baseman Jedd Gyorko turned an Adrian Gonzalez smash to his right into an inning-ending groundout in the fourth inning.
The best play, though, came in the sixth inning before Marquis yielded the hit to Schumaker, as Kyle Blanks closed fast on a sinking liner off the bat of pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston Jr., complete with a diving grab to preserve a shot at history.
"Outstanding," Marquis said. "He made a great catch on a sinker away."
Marquis allowed a one-out home run in the seventh inning to Scott Van Slyke, who happened to be the last batter he faced. Marquis allowed two runs on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts. The two walks snapped a stretch of four consecutive starts with four walks.
"He's given us trouble. He seems like he pitches good every time," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "I thought we were going to break through there after Skip and then Adrian. Van Slyke gets us there, and then we just can't stay there. He gave us a chance to win right there.
"Marquis is a tough matchup. But we weren't knocking him around and he's a guy that keeps the ball down, he can run the ball at you and break the ball off the plate to the other side. He's tough."
The Padres (27-32) didn't exactly rough up Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (5-4), though they did just enough damage against the left-hander who has essentially owned them in his young career.
Kershaw allowed a two-out single to Jesus Guzman -- the first of his three hits -- in the second inning before leaving a pitch out over the plate for Yasmani Grandal, who dropped a soft single into right field for a 1-0 lead. A throwing error by Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez on Guzman's hit put him in scoring position and made the run unearned.
The Padres didn't have to work nearly as hard for their next run, as Gyorko started the fourth inning with a solo home run to left field, his seventh of the season.
"Kershaw is tough, no doubt about it," Black said. "People just don't get on base. I thought we had very competitive at-bats throughout the game. We showed a lot of patience, didn't expand the zone and had a lot of baserunners."
The Padres added another run off Kershaw as Gyorko walked to start the sixth inning and then scored two batters later on a double by Guzman.
The Padres tacked on three runs in the top of the ninth inning for a little breathing room as Gyorko had a sacrifice fly and Will Venable singled in a run to make it 5-2. Finally, a sacrifice fly by Grandal provided the final margin.
But the key was the good at-bats early in the game against Kershaw, Gyorko said.
"He didn't win the Cy Young for no reason," Gyorko said. "You've got to go up there against him and pick a spot and battle. We had a great plan."
But the story Wednesday wasn't about hitting as much as it was about Marquis' right arm and the gem he tossed.
"He's done what we ask of our starting pitchers," Black said. "He's hung in there and given us a chance to win. He's a bulldog."