SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The San Diego Padres are looking far more
comfortable in their new home these days.
San Diego struggled to score and win throughout much of the
first half of their inaugural season at Petco Park.
"Playing well at home, it's a huge key to a winning season,"
Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "We're starting to swing the bats
better and pitch better. And the fans are behind us and you can
feel it down on the field."
The Padres improved to 25-17 at home.
Terrence Long hit a two-run double in the first inning to spark
the NL West leaders to their fifth consecutive victory and 12th in
their last 15 games.
"We know how important it is to win at home if we want to win
the division," Giles said.
The Padres got hits from all but one regular in the lineup as
they played their second straight game with Phil Nevin, their top
power hitter, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday.
Nevin, who has 14 home runs and 53 RBI, is expected to be out
10 days to two weeks.
"That kind of hitting is contagious," Giles said. "With Nevin
not in there, we all have to pick it up."
Ryan Klesko, who has replaced Nevin in the cleanup spot, had two
hits and scored a run.
"This team is well rounded," Klesko said. "We can afford to
lose one guy for a little bit because everyone will step it up a
bit. The confidence is there."
Ismael Valdez (7-5) combined with four relievers on a
five-hitter to win for the second time in six starts. Valdez
allowed three runs -- two earned -- and four hits in five innings.
"It's a nice luxury to have with three guys -- and now, four
with Neal -- throwing well in the bullpen," Bochy said. "We all
have confidence in them late in the ballgame."
The Astros dropped to a season-low nine games behind first-place
St. Louis in the NL Central with their third straight loss.
"We have to win some games," Houston's Lance Berkman said.
"We've been saying that for a while, but we haven't been able to
Pete Munro (1-2) gave up four runs and seven hits in four
"They took advantage of some mistakes early," Munro said. "I
left a couple of pitches up and over the plate, and they took care
of the mistakes."
Long's double and Giles' third-inning homer built a 3-0 lead for
Jeff Bagwell hit a two-run single with two outs in the fourth on
a liner to center that Jay Payton misjudged and allowed to skip
under his glove. Bagwell took third on the error, but Morgan
Ensberg lined out.
Loretta, selected to his first NL All-Star team on Monday,
connected off reliever Mike Gallo in the fifth.
Before his double, Long was batting .083 (3-for-36) with
runners in scoring position. ... 2B Chris Burke, Houston's
first-round pick in the 2001 amateur draft, made his first major