Hernandez's complete effort not enough as Salazar circus grab saves Padres

SAN DIEGO -- Oscar Salazar had just one thought as he raced dangerously close to the left-field wall while tracking Willie Harris' fly ball.

"Ball first," Salazar said. "Whatever happens after that, happens."

Normally an infielder, Salazar helped preserve San Diego's 3-1 win over Livan Hernandez and the Washington Nationals on Monday night with a spectacular, over-the-shoulder catch.

Salazar slammed into the pitcher's scoreboard and bruised his left knee, forcing him out of the game. He also scraped his left elbow and hit his face.

"I got a chance to catch the ball," said Salazar, who impressed manager Bud Black and starter Tim Stauffer. "I was going for it."

Salazar, who made his first start this season in the outfield, expects to be able to play Tuesday night.

"That's a tough play," Black said. "Directly over your head going straight back, off the bat of a lefty, which has a little slice to it, it's always sort of moving. And when you're approaching the wall, it's not a comfortable feeling, and to still make the play, it's great."

Salazar's catch came with a runner on first, one out and the Padres leading 2-1. He bounced off the scoreboard, limped a few steps, threw the ball in, then fell to the grass and grabbed his left knee.

After being tended to, he walked off on his power and was replaced by Drew Macias.

Two batters earlier, Wil Nieves tried to stretch a single into a double and was thrown out by right fielder Will Venable.

"The overall team defense has really picked up," Black said. "It's really saving pitches for us."

Stauffer agreed.

"It makes you want to pitch quickly and efficiently, because if you're doing that, usually plays are being made and guys aren't sitting back," he said. "We've been fortunate to have been making big plays."

David Eckstein and Kevin Kouzmanoff hit RBI doubles in the first inning, and Chase Headley added a pinch-hit home run in the eighth in a matchup of last-place teams.

Hernandez (7-9) threw the 47th complete game of his career and second this season. He also had a complete game in a 6-1 win for the New York Mets against the Nationals on May 26.

Hernandez lost 8-3 to the Padres at Petco Park on Aug. 6 while with the Mets. He was released by the Mets on Aug. 23 and signed with the Nationals last Tuesday.

Hernandez allowed three runs and seven hits in eight innings in his second start with Washington. He struck out five and walked one.

"All the pitches I threw were very nice," Hernandez said. "I made a mistake in the last inning on the home run."

Hernandez reached base twice and scored the Nationals' only run. He dropped to 1-6 in nine career starts against San Diego, and 0-5 in seven starts at Petco Park.

Padres right-hander Tim Stauffer won consecutive starts for the first time this season, allowing one run on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.

Stauffer (3-6) was chased by Pete Orr's two-out single in the seventh. Adam Russell relieved and got Ryan Zimmerman to ground out. Stauffer struck out five and walked three.

Heath Bell pitched the ninth for his 32nd save in 35 chances.

San Diego's first two batters reached and scored. Everth Cabrera hit a leadoff single and scored from first when Eckstein's bloop double went into the Nationals' bullpen down the right-field line, rattled around in the chairs and ricocheted back onto the field. Eckstein scored on Kouzmanoff's one-out double.

"It was a bad inning," Hernandez said. "There was the blooper and it went into the bullpen. The guy -- Cabrera -- is fast. After that I tried to keep the game close to we have a chance to win."

Hernandez "did a great job," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He gave us a chance to win the ballgame. We just couldn't get over the hump."

Hernandez singled leadoff off the third, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Orr's one-out bloop single. He also bunted into an inning-ended, bases-loaded double play in the fourth.

Headley's homer in the eighth was his 10th.

Game notes
Hernandez is 0-1 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts with the Nationals. ... Padres rookie OF Kyle Blanks has a partial tear in his plantar fascia and will have his right foot placed in a cast. Blanks was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday. He'll be re-evaluated in a week.