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05/20/10 4:00 AM ET
Venable flirts with Padres' first cycle
Right fielder falls homer shy with 4-for-5 performance
By Evan Drellich / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The approach, manager Bud Black told the slumping Will Venable, should be the same in the leadoff spot as it is elsewhere. Batting atop the order for the first time this season on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, Venable came in with just three hits in his last 21 at-bats, and not one extra-base hit since May 8. "Buddy called me in the office before the game and told me just stick with the approach you've been taking," Venable said after the Padres' 10-5 win on Wednesday. "The last couple games have been better, just wanted to keep doing what I've been doing." After the game, Venable had his starting pitcher vouching for him to return to the leadoff spot for the next day. Venable tied his career-high for hits in a game with a 4-for-5 performance and flirted with becoming the first Padres player in history to hit for the cycle. He scored four runs and drew a walk. "You get that out of your leadoff guy every night, you're going to give the other team some fits," said Jon Garland, who allowed four runs in five innings. "I think you got to leave him there till he proves you different." Four pitches into the game, Venable tripled into the right-field corner on a low breaking ball off Dodgers righty Ramon Ortiz and scored one batter later. In the third inning, he took the ninth pitch he saw for an opposite-field double off the wall and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez single. Just one inning later, Venable singled -- a go-ahead single that put the Padres up 4-3, and put him a long ball away from history. He scored in the inning on a three-run Gonzalez home run, and knew what he had just gotten involved with. "You know that you're a home run away form the cycle, but at the plate the approach stays the same," Venable said. "Just get a pitch you can handle and try and drive it. It didn't happen." Venable got three more at-bats, but did not find a pitch to drive. He doubled again in his fifth at-bat in the fifth inning, this time to right-center off Jeff Weaver. After Carlos Monasterios struck Venable out swinging in the seventh, it was possible Venable wouldn't get another at-bat, as he was due up fourth in the top of the ninth. Tony Gwynn started that inning with a walk, though, and a sacrifice and groundout brought Venable to the plate with a runner on third and two down. Facing left-hander George Sherrill, it took 10 pitches and four foul balls before Venable settled on walk. He later scored one of the Padres' two runs in the inning. "You know, I had some good pitches to hit from Sherrill, but he's so tough, it's more just a battle," Venable said. "I'm happy to draw a walk from him." It was the third time in his career Venable recorded four hits in a game. He did it twice last season. Black wasn't so sure Venable, a left-hander batting .223 entering the day, would be in the lineup against southpaw starter Clayton Kershaw on Thursday. But Black left the possibility open and said he liked the spark Venable brought to an offense. "We've been talking about some alternatives," Black said. "I think it was more than anything for a different look for Will, a different look for the guys when they see a different name [at the top]. Sometimes a different look of the lineup can change some things for the whole lineup."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.