San Diego stays hot with come-from-behind win

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The San Diego Padres are on their way to
the best month in franchise history, and their impeccable relievers
have been a big reason for it.

The Giants can only dream of such relief.

Phil Nevin hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, and the
Padres rallied against San Francisco's beleaguered bullpen for a
5-3 victory Saturday.

The Giants acquired right-hander LaTroy Hawkins from the Chicago
Cubs before the game in a three-player trade, but the veteran
wasn't in town to prevent another late-inning collapse by San
Francisco's staff.

Meanwhile, San Diego's bullpen put on another show as the Padres
won their 19th game in May, tying the franchise record for
victories in a month.

Rudy Seanez (3-0) struck out the side in the seventh on 13
pitches. Scott Linebrink pitched a perfect eighth to extend his
scoreless streak to 11 2-3 innings. Trevor Hoffman allowed his
first run in May, but struck out Michael Tucker with two runners on
for his 12th straight save.

Both clubs are aware relief pitching is a big strength for San
Diego -- and a big liability for the Giants.

"We talked about it in the dugout," said Nevin, who broke his
second-place tie with Dave Winfield on the franchise's career
homers list. "You like our chances with our bullpen going against
anybody else's. Not to say anything bad about their bullpen, but
we've had some great performances out of those guys all year."

In the eighth, Jeff Fassero (1-2) allowed Geoff Blum's one-out
single and walked Brian Giles. Closer Tyler Walker relieved, but
Nevin hit a full-count pitch deep into the left-field stands for
his eighth homer of the season -- just his second since May 1.

Hawkins will be the Giants' eighth-inning setup man, and he
can't arrive soon enough for Walker.

"It was supposed to be a slider down and away, and I left it up
over the plate," Walker said. "It's tough to swallow right now.
It was the right call, but a bad pitch."

Ramon Hernandez homered and had three hits for the Padres, who
trailed 2-1 in the seventh before tying it on Xavier Nady's RBI
groundout against starter Noah Lowry.

Hoffman allowed Mike Matheny's RBI single in the ninth but
earned his 12th straight save since April 30 and his 15th in 17
opportunities overall.

"We get a lead like that with a couple of innings left, and we
feel like it's our game," said rookie Tim Stauffer, who allowed
six hits and two walks in another solid start for San Diego.
"Coming out of a game with a lead, you know you're probably going
to get the win."

Moises Alou homered and drove in two runs for the Giants, who
lost their third straight following a four-game winning streak. The
first-place Padres have taken five of seven from their upstate
rivals this season.

Alou drove in Omar Vizquel with a first-inning single, then
homered to left in the fourth. It was the third homer in four games
for the veteran slugger.

Lowry dominated the first six innings, though he needed 101
pitches to do it. Only Hernandez hit him hard, with a long fly in
the second and his sixth homer of the season in the fourth.

But in the seventh, Hernandez singled, advanced to third on
Khalil Greene's double and scored on Nady's groundout. Lowry
yielded five hits and struck out five in seven innings.

Stauffer hasn't won in three starts since his debut May 11, but
he recovered from a rocky first inning and eventually retired seven
of his last eight batters.

The Giants traded right-handers Jerome Williams and David
Aardsma for Hawkins, who struggled with consistency, fan derision
and media criticism in Chicago. He'll be Walker's top setup man in
San Francisco.

"This is all going to change (Sunday)," Giants manager Felipe
Alou said. "We'll have a guy to pitch the eighth inning, and I can
use Walker in the ninth."

Game notes
Hoffman, who got his 408th career save, has converted 12
straight save opportunities overall. ... Seanez needed just 13
pitches to strike out the side. ... Stauffer's pop fly in the third
inning landed for a single when the wind blew it out of Vizquel's
reach. ... With gorgeous weather and a holiday crowd, the Giants
had their sixth sellout of the season.