Venable backs Richard as Padres beat Nats

SAN DIEGO -- Rookie Will Venable is standing out in a crowded outfield.

With a quartet of young Padres outfielders vying for playing time, Venable has made his mark with his bat and his glove.

Venable had an RBI single and made another spectacular catch to save a run and back solid pitching by fellow rookie Clayton Richard, leading San Diego to a 4-1 win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.

The Padres also got a sliding catch from center fielder Tony Gwynn that saved another run.

"I can't say enough about the plays we are making, especially in the outfield," Padres manager Bud Black said. "You're seeing speed make a difference in the outfield."

Richard (4-1) carried a shutout into the seventh inning before he gave up a solo homer to Josh Bard with two outs. The outing was his most impressive since coming over from the Chicago White Sox in the Jake Peavy trade on July 31.

Richard was hammered in his last start when he gave up six runs on nine hits over 2 1/3 innings in a 9-1 loss at Atlanta on Thursday.

"Making quality pitches early in the count was the big thing," Richard said of the main difference between the two games. "Over there, they kind of ambushed me a little bit. Some of the plays made behind me were amazing."

Venable has turned in defensive gems in three consecutive games, including his diving catch in right-center field Tuesday that robbed Ryan Zimmerman of a hit and a potential run in the sixth with the Padres holding a 2-0 lead.

"I didn't initially think that I would get to it," he said. "At the last second, I thought I might be able to lay out and get it."

Richard said those defensive plays are a big boost to a pitcher and acknowledged that Venable's catch "was a big surprise. I thought there was no chance he was going to be able to get to that."

Gwynn then robbed Zimmerman in the eighth inning with a sliding catch in center that ended the inning with a runner on second.

"They are making good plays and it's just one of those times where it looks like everything we hit gets caught," Zimmerman said.

In Monday night's game against Washington, Venable threw out Wil Nieves when he tried to stretch a single into a double. And he made a diving catch on a drive by Hanley Ramirez that saved two runs from scoring in Sunday's game at Florida.

"We're taking pride in trying to make sure that not a lot drops in there," Venable said. "We are trying to challenge each other to do our jobs."

Richard allowed one run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings. The lefty struck out six and walked two.

Heath Bell pitched the ninth inning for his 33rd save in 36 chances to complete the four-hitter.

Bard's homer to left field cut the Padres' lead to 2-1. Richard was replaced by Adam Russell, who retired pinch-hitter Willie Harris on a line drive.

San Diego beat the Nationals for the 30th time in 39 games and has won 14 of 18 times at Petco Park against them, dating to 2004 when they were the Montreal expos.

The Padres have won six of eight and handed Washington its fifth straight loss and its 12 in 15 games.

San Diego's Oscar Salazar had a pinch-hit homer leading off the seventh to increase the lead to 3-1 and knock out rookie J.D. Martin (3-4). Pinch hitter Drew Macias added an RBI single in the eighth.

With Chase Headley hitting a pinch-hit homer on Monday night, it was the first time San Diego has hit pinch home runs in consecutive games since Aug. 8-9, 2002.

Salazar left Monday night's game after he bruised his left knee when he slammed into the pitcher's scoreboard in left field while making a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch.

Venable had an RBI single in the second that scored Kevin Kouzmanoff, who led off with a double. Kouzmanoff added a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Martin gave up three runs -- two earned -- on five hits in six innings. The right-hander walked five and struck out three.

Game notes
Nationals SS Cristian Guzman missed his second straight start with bunions on his foot. Guzman, scheduled to also sit out Wednesday's finale of the three-game series, grounded out as a pinch hitter. ... Padres rookie RHP Mat Latos will likely make his final start of the season on Saturday at the Los Angeles Dodgers since he has already more than doubled the number of innings he's thrown in either of his first two minor league seasons.