SAN DIEGO: At the start of Monday’s game against the visiting Colorado Rockies, the San Diego Padres boldly announced their intentions. Jon Jay lined a single to left. Wil Myers jumped on the first pitch he saw, sending a single to right and Jay to third. Matt Kemp ripped a double past all-world third baseman Nolan Arenado. Brett Wallace followed with a walk.
Four batters. Four baserunners. A two-zip lead. The lineup resembled a well-oiled machine.
Throughout the rest of the Padres’ 2-1 victory, they clung to their advantage because of their pitching and defense—and in spite of an offense that looked more like the one that had been shut out seven times in April. An announced crowd of 19,013, the smallest this season at Petco Park, watched San Diego eke its way to 10-16.
A day after San Diego whiffed 14 times against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, Jon Gray needed just five innings to tie his career high of 10 strikeouts. After Kemp’s first-inning double, the young Rockies right-hander retired 16 consecutive batters. The dry spell was broken when Kemp came to the plate with one out in the sixth and laced a single to left field.
Padres veteran James Shields entered Monday with a 3.55 earned-run average and the majors’ second-lowest run-support average (1.36) among qualifying starting pitchers. Thanks to the support of his defense (three double plays, catcher Derek Norris’ throw to thwart a steal attempt) and his own savvy performance (six innings, nine hits, one run, two walks, five strikeouts), the righty earned what had been a long time coming: his first win of the season.
Shields scattered three singles and a walk over his first three innings. In the top of the fourth, Carlos Gonzalez led off with a swinging bunt single, beating the shift. Following another single and a double play, Gonzalez scored on a double by former Padres catcher Nick Hundley
Ryan Buchter continued to solidify his role as a seventh-inning stalwart, pitching around a one-out walk to strike out the side, staying on the mound to face one batter in the eighth and striking out Gonzalez, too. In 12 2/3 innings, the left-hander has allowed one run and racked up 20 punchouts. He had appeared in only one big-league inning, in 2014, before the Padres signed him to a minor league deal.
In short, Buchter did to the Rockies (12-13) what Gray had done to the Padres for much of the game. After Wallace’s first-inning walk, Gray struck out 10 of the next 15 batters. At one point, five consecutive Padres at-bats ended in strike three and a trudge back to the dugout.
Gray, who had allowed 11 runs over his first two starts, finished with six innings of two-run ball.
The Padres finished with six hits and 12 strikeouts, 11 of them coming against Gray. They’d gone into the night with 246 strikeouts overall, just two behind Houston for the most in the majors. The Astros fanned 11 times Monday to retain a minimal lead.
Padres setup man Brandon Maurer relieved Buchter in the eighth and retired both batters he faced.
For a moment, the bottom of the eighth brought back memories of the bottom of the first. Jay led off with a single, and Myers singled. But after Kemp flied out to the warning track and the Rockies issued an intentional walk, Alexei Ramirez did exactly what they wanted, grounding into an inning-ending double play.
Fernando Rodney did not need any insurance, it turned out. The closer took the mound in his ninth. He retired the side to convert his fifth save in as many chances.