Saddled with bad luck, ravaged by a rash of injuries, the Padres have filled vacancies with more than just warm bodies, both during their recent run of success and during a 6-3 victory over the Dodgers before a crowd of 30,656.
Cases in point:
• Pedro Ciriaco, who a week ago wasn't even with the organization, broke a tie with an RBI triple in the seventh inning and then had a two-run home run in the eighth, while proving to be an apt replacement for the injured Everth Cabrera at shortstop.
• There was utility man Alexi Amarista, running far to chase down a fly ball in the right-center-field gap in the eighth inning to save a run. That's the position normally manned by Cameron Maybin, who is on the disabled list for a second time this season.
• There were two nifty defensive grabs by left fielder Chris Denorfia and second baseman Logan Forsythe on consecutive plays in the seventh inning. On another day, it could have been Carlos Quentin and Jedd Gyorko playing those positions, though both are currently injured.
And if those hits had fallen in on Thursday?
"You never know how a game is going to play out if a different result happens," Black said.
The roster depth, maybe the best Black has had in six-plus seasons as manager, might be the best he has had to work with. That depth hasn't just allowed the Padres to sustain their recent run of success; but it's actually allowed them to build on it.
"You can argue that outside [of Ciriaco], everyone in this room knew they would be involved in this team's season at some point," said Padres outfielder Mark Kotsay. "It says a lot about guys' character and their selflessness."
Ciriaco, who was traded to the Padres a week ago after being designated by the Red Sox, tied the game with one swing and essentially put it away with another. The Padres knew they were getting a versatile player from the Red Sox, which was the endorsement Boston manager John Farrell gave Black.
How much of Black's conversation with Farrell was about Ciriaco's offense?
"It was mostly [about] defense," Black said.
The Padres (37-36) scored four runs over their final two innings, as the game -- moving slow early after one notable swing in the first inning -- turned wild late against the Dodgers (30-41).
After starting pitcher Jason Marquis departed with 109 pitches through six innings, the Padres turned to relief pitcher Nick Vincent, who was the beneficiary of two fine defensive plays behind him in the seventh.
Mark Ellis lifted a ball toward shallow center field that appeared on its way to becoming a hit. Forsythe, playing second base, raced back and made a twisting catch before falling to the turf.
"That was a hell of a play," Black said.
The next batter, pinch-hitter Elian Herrera, sent a high popup down the left-field line and toward the area where the grandstand jut outs near the foul line.
Denorfia raced over and lunged over the fence, making a catch for the second out as he tumbled into the aisle.
"This is a great opportunity for a number of guys to get regular work," Black said. "It's a collective effort by the group. We don't have that one player who can carry the team for a while."
Marquis, looking to win his 10th game of the season, got off to a rough start as he allowed a home run to Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig in the first inning. Puig's home run, his sixth, landed in the beach area beyond the center-field fence, 406 feet from the plate.
"First inning, early in the game, [I'm] trying to establish my fastball. I left it up a little bit and he put a good swing on it," said Marquis, who struck out Puig his next two times up. "But as the game goes on, you try to exploit the weaknesses. With men on base, I just wasn't going to let that happen this time."
But Marquis was fairly stingy thereafter. He didn't allow a hit again until the fourth inning and eventually allowed one more run, in the sixth inning on a Juan Uribe sacrifice fly, before departing.
"We haven't seemed to be able to solve the Jason Marquis riddle," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
Marquis allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings with one walk and five strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 3.59 and posted his 10th quality start in 15 outings this season -- and managed to do so on Thursday without his best stuff.
"Tonight, he didn't have command of his sinker but kept the ball down," Black said. "You saw a better true changeup. He didn't quite have a feel for his pitches ... but he still made pitches."
Tied at 2 in the seventh inning, Yasmani Grandal doubled and scored when Ciriaco tripled to the gap in left-center field. Chase Headley, with three strikeouts at that point, added an RBI single later in the inning to make it 4-2.
Then in the eighth inning, Grandal singled in front of Ciriaco, who launched a home run to left field for a 6-2 cushion.
"I'm just trying to make it simple; get a good pitch and hit it hard somewhere and I got lucky," Ciriaco said.
Vincent (2-0) got the win with one scoreless inning. Matt Guerrier (2-3) took the loss.