Arizona gains ground in NL West

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Javier Vazquez and the Arizona Diamondbacks intend to stick around a bit in baseball's weakest division.

Vazquez was brilliant again, pitching eight sharp innings while getting two hits and scoring a run as the Diamondbacks beat the San Diego Padres 6-0 on Thursday night.

The Diamondbacks pulled within 4½ games of the NL West-leading Padres. By winning the opener of a four-game series, Arizona improved to three games under .500. San Diego is the division's only team with a winning record, 48-42.

"It was a game we had to win," manager Bob Melvin said. "For them, it really wasn't the same case."

Vazquez, who beat the Padres for the second time this season at Petco Park, agreed.

"This whole series is important," Vazquez said. "If we want to stay in the race, we have to compete with the Padres. It's good to start winning the second half."

Shawn Green had three hits for the Diamondbacks.

Vazquez came within three outs of his fourth complete game this season, shutting down the Padres on four singles and one walk. Vazquez (8-8) allowed only one baserunner to reach third base, struck out four and snapped his four-game losing streak.

He also beat the Padres 5-2 at Petco on May 1, when he threw a six-hitter. He pitched a complete game in his previous start on July 6, holding St. Louis' powerhouse offense to a season-low three hits, but lost 2-1.

"He pitched similar to the way he did last time here in this park," Melvin said. "At night the ball doesn't carry very well and Javy knows where he's throwing the ball. Almost mirror games."

Vazquez retired his last 10 batters. Armando Almanza finished the five-hitter.

After throwing 106 pitches, Vazquez didn't push to pitch the ninth.

"It's good to throw complete games, but you also have to be wise," he said. "They always ask me how I feel. If I feel good or strong, I go out there. But today, in the eighth inning I felt a little tired, so maybe it was the right decision."

The Diamondbacks jumped on erratic right-hander Brian Lawrence
(5-9), who lost his third straight start. Lawrence trailed 4-0 after three innings and tied the club record by hitting three batters with pitches.

"Their guy pitched well. He's been tough on us," San Diego manager Bruce Bochy said. "He threw a great game tonight and Brian was a little off. They got some early runs and we couldn't do anything."

With one out in the first, Lawrence plunked Chad Tracy and Luis Gonzalez in succession. Tracy scored on Green's bloop single to center that fell just in front of a diving Dave Roberts.

Lawrence hit Alex Cintron leading off the second, got consecutive strikeouts and then walked Craig Counsell before allowing Tracy's two-run double into the right field corner.

Green doubled into the corner in right leading off the third and scored on Chris Snyder's two-out chopper that went for an infield single to make it 4-0.

"A couple of walks, a couple of hit batters did us in," Lawrence said. "Nothing went my way. It was one of those days. I'm a control pitcher and I didn't have it today."

With Dennys Reyes pitching, Vazquez singled to center leading off the sixth and scored on Gonzalez's groundout.

The Diamondbacks took a 6-0 lead in the seventh when Cintron scored an unearned run on Robert Fick's error on Counsell's grounder. Gonzalez struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Lawrence went five innings, allowing four runs and seven hits. He struck out five and walked two.

Game notes
It was Lawrence's shortest start since April 24, when he lasted just 2 1/3 innings at Arizona. ... The Padres expect second baseman Mark Loretta and first baseman Phil Nevin to be activated from the disabled list next week. Loretta, out since jamming his left thumb on a headfirst slide into first base on May 17 against Atlanta, is due to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Portland on Friday. He's expected to be activated on Tuesday, the day he's eligible to come off the 60-day DL. He had surgery on May 24. Nevin, out since June 21 with a strained stomach muscle, is due to begin a rehab assignment
Saturday, also with Portland. Bochy said there's a good chance Nevin will also be activated Tuesday, when the Padres open a three-game series at the New York Mets.