Manager Bud Black was not pleased with his team's defense in Friday's 7-2 loss, as the Padres committed two errors. One day later, the story was much different.
"We've been talking about our defense being pretty consistent all year," Black said. "I think last night was something we haven't done much this year. Tonight, we bounced back and played a really good game defensively."
The Padres' defensive clinic was highlighted by a play in the seventh inning with San Diego clinging to a 2-1 lead. After Ross got himself into trouble by allowing a leadoff walk to Jay Bruce and a single to Xavier Paul to put runners on the corners with no outs, Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco hit a shallow fly ball to right fielder Chris Denorfia, who caught it and fired the ball toward home. With Bruce staying put at third, first baseman Yonder Alonso cut off the throw and nabbed Paul, who was trying to tag and advance to second, for the 9-3-6 double play.
"That was awesome," said Will Venable, who was playing center field at the time. "That play was huge."
Ross finished the inning by forcing third baseman Jack Hannahan to ground out to short. After the game, he was asked if he had ever seen such a double play.
"Not in a key situation like that," Ross said. "That was huge. The guys have been playing great defense, and it continued tonight. It was a great team win all the way around."
It was also a strong night for Ross, who earned his third win of the year in his fourth consecutive quality start. Following a first inning in which he gave up a walk, a hit and a run, the 26-year-old right-hander proceeded to toss six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and a trio of walks the rest of the way.
Ross admitted he struggled early, and Black said the key for him is to locate his fastball. Once he settled in and did that, Ross was dominant, needing just 96 pitches to get through his seven innings of work, which included six strikeouts.
"I started getting in grooves and just getting on the same page as [catcher Nick Hundley] and executing pitches," Ross said. "That will happen every now and then, but the key was the defense picking me up."
Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani couldn't say the same for his defense. By the time Ross took the mound to start his night in the first, he was already armed with a 2-0 lead, and Cingrani hadn't been charged with a run.
Denorfia and Venable led off the game with back-to-back singles, the second of which was mishandled by Paul in left field, allowing Denorfia to score and Venable to advance to second.
"That's just one of those balls like, 'How did that happen?'" Paul said. "It felt like the ball went through my glove. It's just a play where I was right there in front of the ball. Maybe it took a little hop on me."
Chase Headley followed with what should have been a groundout in the next at-bat, but Hannahan threw wide of first base for his first of a career-high three errors, bringing home Venable for the second run of the inning.
That would be all the Padres needed.
After Brandon Phillips' single drove in Shin-Soo Choo to put the Reds on the board in the first, neither team recorded another hit until Mesoraco notched a single in the fifth. Other than the seventh inning, though, the Reds wouldn't do much to threaten San Diego the rest of the way.
The Padres finally recorded another hit in the eighth, when Venable hit his second solo homer in as many days. Venable's 15th blast of the year added some insurance and set up Luke Gregerson and closer Huston Street, who pitched a perfect ninth, including two strikeouts, for his 22nd save of the season.
Despite the win, San Diego's offense continued to struggle without the suspended Everth Cabrera and injured Carlos Quentin, tallying just four hits. Venable, though, extended his hit streak to seven games and said the team is figuring out how to produce without two of its biggest offensive threats in the lineup.
"I'm just trying to go out there and have good at-bats, especially right now when we're down a couple guys," said Venable, who went 2-for-4. "Everyone just needs to step up and do a better job. We've been doing better at that."