SAN DIEGO (AP) -- With two well-pitched games, the San Diego
Padres are in position to sweep the Oakland Athletics in a series
between the two best teams in the West.
Clay Hensley and three relievers combined on a six-hitter and
the Padres beat the Athletics 8-1 on Wednesday night. Mike Cameron
homered for the fourth time in five games and Mike Piazza also
connected.Beating the AL West leaders for the second straight night
allowed the Padres to take a 1½-game lead in the NL West.Hensley bounced back from a rough outing at Texas, and the
Padres have rebounded from two bruising losses to Seattle. The
series finale is Thursday, with San Diego ace Jake Peavy facing Dan
Haren.The Padres lowered their staff ERA to 3.89, the best in the NL."We have pitched well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a
good comeback considering the two games against Seattle where our
pitching got away from us. We got hit pretty hard then. We have
shown that we are resilient and have played very well the last two
days."Hensley (5-6) allowed one run and five hits in seven innings to
win for the first time in five starts. He struck out three and
walked two. Brian Sweeney threw a perfect eighth and Scott Cassidy
allowed one hit in the ninth.On Tuesday night, the Padres held the Athletics to five hits in
a 3-0 win."I think Clay pitched great tonight," Piazza said. "He got
ahead in certain situations. They're a real disciplined team and
they don't swing at a lot of bad pitches, so he knew he had to
throw strikes tonight and he was able to do that."Hensley lasted only 4 1/3 innings in a 5-3 loss to Texas last
Thursday."I got back to my fastball and attacking the zone with the
sinker," he said.And facing a patient team like the A's "just gave me more
incentive to get that first pitch strike. They've got a pretty
patient team over there, so once you get ahead, it kind of goes
from there," Hensley said."We've been struggling but we've also faced two pretty good
pitchers," Oakland leadoff hitter Mark Kotsay said. "We had been
scoring some runs coming in here, so I think we can bounce back."Adrian Gonzalez went 4-for-4 for San Diego, all singles, to tie
his career-high, and scored twice. Khalil Greene drove in three
runs, including two on a seventh-inning double.Cameron hit a leadoff homer into the second-floor balcony of the
Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse just beyond the left-field
corner, his ninth. It came on a 1-1 pitch from Joe Blanton (7-7).Piazza drove a 2-2 pitch from reliever Ron Flores an estimated
423 feet into the second deck in left with one out in the fifth for
a 6-1 lead. It was his 11th.With his 408th career home run, Piazza moved past Duke Snider
and into sole possession of 40th on the all-time list.Jay Payton, who played for the Padres in 2004, singled home Eric
Chavez in the fourth for Oakland's only run.The Padres took a 5-1 lead in the fourth, getting four runs on
four hits, two walks, a wild pitch and an error on Blanton.Brian Giles drew a leadoff walk and the Padres hit four straight
one-out singles, with Greene and rookie Josh Barfield driving in
runs. With the bases loaded and Cameron batting, Blanton's wild
pitch allowed Vinny Castilla to score, and Barfield came racing
around from second and scored when Blanton couldn't handle the
throw from catcher Jason Kendall.That play "was pretty much a mess," Oakland manager Ken Macha
said."The pitch was not a very good curve ball," Blanton said.
"That was a tough one to block. Then, I just missed the throw. I
didn't know where it went."Oakland rookie Doug Clark, pinch hitting for Blanton in the
fifth, got his first career hit, a single to center, which was also
the Athletics' first hit by a pinch-hitter in 24 at-bats this
season. Clark also stole his first base.Blanton went four innings, allowing five runs and six hits. He
struck out five and walked two.
Gonzalez also had four hits April 12 at Florida. ...
Barfield made two nice plays at 2B, diving to catch Nick Swisher's
line drive, and leaping to catch Payton's liner in the seventh. ...
Padres backup C Josh Bard was suspended one game for his aggressive
actions during a game against Seattle on Sunday and was fined an
undisclosed amount by baseball's chief disciplinarian, Bob Watson.
Bard appealed and was eligible to play Wednesday night.