SAN DIEGO -- The first three hitters to reach base safely in the fourth inning for the Padres on Tuesday failed miserably to get the ball out of the infield on their own against the Cardinals, though it wasn't a detriment to the greater good by any means.
Instead, it was kindling for another big inning, one of many lately, as the Padres scored five runs in the fourth inning on their way to a 6-4 victory over the Cardinals before a crowd of 29,887 at Petco Park.
The Padres will go for a sweep of the three-game series on Wednesday.
Now, about that fourth inning ...
"It isn't always about balls squared up after balls squared up. Sometimes ... you get the little breaks," said Padres third baseman Chase Headley.
The Padres, who have won 16 of their last 21 games, didn't have a single hit against Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright entering the fourth inning when, with one out, Will Venable reached first base as Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma threw high to first base.
Headley and Yasmani Grandal then reached base on infield singles, prolonging the inning, eventually allowing Logan Forsythe and Alexi Amarista the chance to hit. Forsythe responded with a two-run double and Amarista added a two-run triple.
What started so innocently turned into another big inning for the Padres, who had innings of multiple runs on five occasions in Monday's victory over the Cardinals.
"Good at-bats," said Padres manager Bud Black. "Will stung the ball and ran hard out of the box. And Chase got one in the right spot and Yasmani took the ball the other way. Then we had two clutch hits with balls up in the zone."
The Padres would need each and every one of those runs against the Cardinals, especially after starting pitcher Edinson Volquez lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits. Volquez finished with six strikeouts, but he also walked six for the second time this season.
"I felt good, but I've got to give a lot of credit to the bullpen," said Volquez, who was pitching for the first time in eight days.
Four Padres relievers combined to get the last 11 outs, with Luke Gregerson working 1 2/3 innings for his sixth save of the season. The only run that quartet allowed was when David Freese hit a home run against Brad Brach in the seventh inning.
Gregerson entered the game with one out and two on in the eighth inning but got the next two hitters -- Matt Holliday and Allen Craig -- out on their front foot on sliders. The results were two harmless ground balls to end the inning.
Gregerson then got three outs in the ninth inning as the Padres improved to 20-7 in games at Petco Park since July 16.
The Padres got a big insurance run in the eighth inning when Yonder Alonso doubled, moved to third on a ground ball and then scored on a two-out RBI single to left field by Cameron Maybin.
For Alonso, it was his 34th double of the season, which set a club record for single-season doubles by a rookie. The old mark was held by Benito Santiago in 1987. Alonso had three walks in the game as well.
For Forsythe, who missed hitting for the cycle by a home run on Monday, he's hitting .352 over his last 26 games. Grandal, who had two hits, has hit safely in 11 of his last 15 games. There have been plenty of contributions up and down the lineup and not just from a chosen few.
"We're taking balls and swinging at strikes," Black said. "We're having good at-bats."
As for Wainwright, he looked sharp early. In fact, the first hit he allowed was Headley's infield single in the fourth inning. He ended up going six innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits to go with four walks and six strikeouts.
"The team over there, they're playing some of the best ball since the break, they're executing," Freese said.
In the last month, the Padres have won seven series against teams with winning records -- Pirates (2), D-backs (2), Braves, Dodgers and now the Cardinals.
"It's a great learning experience and tells us how we measure up. These [type of] games are intense," Black said.