SAN DIEGO (AP) — In the span of just a few batters, Ian Kennedy and the San Diego Padres were saved by their clutch bullpen.
Kennedy escaped a tough jam in the seventh with the help of three relievers and Matt Kemp and Justin Upton keyed a seven-run bottom of the inning, lifting the Padres to an 8-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night.
Relievers Sean Kelley, Marc Rzepczynski and recently acquired Bud Norris came in to strike out consecutive batters in the seventh with two men on to preserve a 1-0 lead.
San Diego then erupted for the seven-run inning, keyed by two-run hits from both Kemp and Upton and helped by a Cardinals error that led to three unearned runs.
“It was the turning point in the game,” Kelley said. “We all basically had a guy to get out and we all did it. Then we came in and you saw how we responded. There was a lot of energy in the dugout, for sure.”
The Cardinals (77-45) have the best record in baseball but have lost the first two games of the series by a combined score of 17-3.
“It was one of those innings that kind of blew up on us,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
The loss reduced St. Louis’ lead in the NL Central to 3 1-2 games over Pittsburgh, which beat San Francisco 3-2.
The Padres, who have won nine of 11, tied their season high with their fifth straight win.
San Diego led 1-0 when the Cardinals threatened in the seventh inning against Kennedy (8-11).
Brandon Moss led off with a double and took third on Tommy Pham’s single. Kelley replaced Kennedy and struck out pitcher Carlos Martinez, who had hits in his first two at-bats.
The left-handed Rzepczynski came in to strike out Kolten Wong and Norris struck out Stephen Piscotty looking.
“The situation couldn’t get any better than the bullpen coming in and picking me up in that big spot punching out the side,” Kennedy said.
Kevin Quackenbush and Odrisamer Despaigne each pitched a scoreless inning for San Diego’s fourth shutout of the season.
Kennedy allowed seven hits, struck out 10 and walked one. Overall, Padres pitchers struck out 16 batters.
“It was not a good night offensively,” St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter said. “Kennedy threw the ball well. He kept throwing the ball off the plate and he was getting some calls.”
San Diego sent 12 men to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, keyed by Kemp’s two-run, bases-loaded single and Upton’s two-run double, both off reliever Seth Maness, that made it 5-0.
A throwing error by St. Louis third baseman Mark Reynolds then led to the unearned runs.
Martinez (12-6) lost his second straight start, allowing three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings.
San Diego’s Travis Jankowski, who made his major league debut Friday night with two hits and an RBI, followed with two hits and two RBIs.
Kennedy used strikeouts to escape a couple of jams. After Martinez reached on a one-out double in the third inning and advanced to third base, Kennedy struck out Piscotty looking.
In the fifth, Pham had a one-out double and took third on Martinez’s infield single. Kennedy struck out Carpenter and Piscotty to end the inning.
Carpenter was ejected by home plate umpire Chris Segal for arguing after being called out on strikes.
The Padres (61-62) have won four of six games against St. Louis to take the season series with just one game remaining. San Diego is the only National League team with a winning record against the Cardinals.
Cardinals: Although RF Jason Heyward started his second straight game, the team is being cautious about his sore hamstring.
Padres: C Derek Norris left the game with a bruised left hand in the eighth inning after Quackenbush struck out pinch-hitter Peter Bourjos. The strikeout pitch deflected off Norris’ hand and bounced away, allowing Bourjos to take first. Norris went to his knees before coming out.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (14-4, 2.85 ERA) will look to increase his career highs in wins (14), starts (23), innings pitched (145 1-3) and strikeouts (125) in Sunday’s series finale.
Padres: RHP Colin Rea (2-0, 4.22) will attempt to join Dave Freisleben (1974) as the only Padres to win their first three career starts. All three of Rea’s starts have been at home.