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PHI@SD: Hundley rakes with a four-RBI game

SAN DIEGO -- Not once during his season-opening offensive funk did Nick Hundley even have the benefit of an "a-ha!" moment, that precise instance when his hitless skid went from exasperating to laughable with one wholly unproductive swing of the bat.

"No, because I wasn't squaring balls up, I wasn't driving balls that guys were making plays on," Hundley said. "I just wasn't swinging the bat well. It would have been different if I was 0-for-21 and lined out five times or if I was 0-for-19 and hammered a ball to center and the guy makes a diving catch.

"I was striking out, I was popping up or I was grounding out. I could not sit back and say I was unlucky."

Exactly a week after getting his first hit of the season, Hundley put the finishing touches on an afternoon that qualified as absolutely blissful for the Padres, who managed a split of their four-game series against the Phillies with a 6-1 victory before a crowd of 26,759.

Leading the way was the guy who didn't have a batting average entering last Sunday's game against the Dodgers: Hundley, who had his first hit that day, becoming the last player in the Major Leagues with 25 or more plate appearances to reach base with a hit.

Since that funk -- now long gone (for the record, Hundley was 0-for-21) -- the Padres' catcher has flourished. Sunday offered a prime example, as Hundley tripled, hit a home run and knocked in a career-high four runs as the Padres (5-12) won consecutive games for the first time this season.

"Eventually, you knew that things were going to go Nick's way," said Padres hitting coach Phil Plantier.

Since his hitless beginning, Hundley has 10 hits in his last 26 at-bats -- with four extra-base hits and eight of his nine RBIs. In his second game in the cleanup spot, he produced when guys were on base, something that team has lacked during its vexing start.

"Even when he wasn't getting his hits, he was still having good swings," Padres manager Bud Black said. "But I'm sure it was a weight off his shoulders to get that first one."

The same could probably be said for the Padres, who for the first time this season posted consecutive victories. Doesn't sound like much? Well, consider that this is the deepest into a season the team has had to wait for consecutive wins since 1994, when the Padres, oddly enough, defeated the Phillies twice to go from 3-14 to 5-14.

The Padres made three errors on Sunday and starting pitcher Anthony Bass (1-2) issued five walks over six innings. But Bass made enough quality pitches -- including an inning-ending double-play ball by Carlos Ruiz to end the sixth -- to help ensure a victory heading into Monday's off-day.

"Anthony threw the ball well when he needed to," Black said of Bass, who allowed one unearned run on three hits with seven strikeouts. "As the game went on, he smoothed out some things in his delivery and became efficient. He escaped some jams with some pitches."

Hundley made sure any such lapses -- the two errors on one play by first baseman Yonder Alonso and one by Will Venable, along with Bass' walks -- were essentially irrelevant in the end with his bat, which only a week ago probably had a better future as kindling.

"It was a terrible start," Hundley said. "But I can look back and say I'm better off for it. It's a constant battle. You're never in a place in this game where you can't get better."

What impressed Plantier about Hundley during his struggles was how he handled himself, how he didn't mope. Instead, he worked even harder. Watched more video, looked for answers. The son of a college football coach, Hundley's resolve showed up even on days when the hits didn't.

"One of the things that impressed me was how he didn't let it interrupt how he handled running the pitching staff or how he was in the clubhouse," said Plantier, who is in his first season with the team and, obviously, his first of working with Hundley on a daily basis.

"That's a display of having solid character." Comments