ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- San Diego manager Bud Black was curious about how his team would stack up against Tampa Bay. So far, the Padres have looked pretty good.
Will Venable, Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley homered to help the Padres beat the Rays once again, 5-4 Wednesday night."It's a great test for us to go up against a very good American League team," Black said. "Well-balanced offensively. They have speed. They've got real good arms."San Diego will look to complete a sweep of the three-game interleague series Thursday.Venable broke a scoreless tie with a two-run shot in the fifth. Gonzalez hit a solo homer in the sixth for a 3-0 lead, and is 33 for 77 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in June.After the Rays rallied to make it 3-all, Jerry Hairston Jr. put the Padres ahead with an RBI single in the seventh off James Shields (6-7). Headley made it 5-3 with his solo drive in the ninth."That was fun," Headley said.The slumping Rays held a players-only meeting before batting practice, which was called for by first baseman Carlos Pena. Tampa Bay, which got a solo homer from Sean Rodriguez during a three-run sixth, has gone 10-17 since May 23."Just wanted to let the guys know, or remind the guys that we're an awesome team," Pena said. "Not allow all the outside distractions to put extra pressure on ourselves or to take us off course. Regardless of what's going on around us, our only goal, immediate goal, is to play our kind of baseball."Tampa Bay tied it at 3 in the sixth when B.J. Upton hit an RBI double, pinch hitter Willy Aybar had a sacrifice fly and Rodriguez homered."We won't hang our heads," Upton said. "We played good baseball. Things didn't go our way."Jason Bartlett scored with two outs in the ninth when Headley made a poor throw on Carl Crawford's grounder to third base.Padres left fielder Aaron Cunningham took away an extra-base hit from Aybar on a diving catch with one out and a runner on first in the eighth."That was a tremendous momentum changer there," Black said.Reliever Luke Gregerson (2-2) allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings. Heath Bell pitched the ninth for his 19th save.Shields, who retired his first 11 batters before Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the fourth, gave up four runs and six hits over seven innings. The right-hander was coming off a win that stopped a personal five-game losing streak in his first career relief appearance Saturday when the Rays used a club-record nine pitchers during a 9-8, 11-inning victory over Florida."We need to win some ballgames," Shields said. "We need to do something different right now and see what happens."San Diego starter Kevin Correia allowed two runs, three hits and five walks in 5 1/3 innings. He had given up 13 runs in 12 2/3 innings over his three previous starts.Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria, the leading vote-getter among third basemen for the AL All-Star team, went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position. He has four hits in his last 31 at-bats."It's just one of those times as hitters we go through," Longoria said. "I'm not going to make any excuses. I'm just going to come to the field and do the same things that have made me successful in the past and trust that it's going to turn around."
The Rays are 18-17 at home this season, compared to 24-12 on the road. ... OF Gabe Kapler (right hip) is set to start a minor league rehab assignment and could be activated from the disabled list next week. ... Padres INF Everth Cabrera (right hamstring) might rejoin the team this weekend.