Donald Miralle / Getty Images
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Chris Denorfia #13 of the San Diego Padres is congratulated by Manager Bud Black after hitting the winning RBI with teammates Chase Headley #7 scoring the winning run during the Padres 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds in their MLB game on September 25, 2010 at PETCO Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
As the shadows and sun created tough conditions at Petco Park, the San Diego Padres found another way to win yet another close game.
Chris Denorfia doubled in the winning run off hard-throwing rookie Aroldis Chapman with two outs in the ninth inning Saturday, giving the Padres their second straight 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds and a half-game lead over San Francisco in the NL West.
The Reds' magic number for clinching the NL Central was trimmed to two before the first pitch when the St. Louis Cardinals lost 7-3 at the Chicago Cubs. The Reds have lost 13 of 20 as they close in on their first playoff berth since 1995.
There's a chance San Diego and Cincinnati could meet again in the playoffs.
"To be able to come up big in those first two games, you don't know what it does to them mentally if we do play them in the playoffs," Padres starter Jon Garland said. "It's just big to start the homestand and get us off to a good start."
Denorfia's hard grounder off Chapman (1-2) went down the line, skipping past the glove of third baseman Scott Rolen and scoring Chase Headley from first. Left fielder Jonny Gomes made a sliding stop in foul territory before it got to the wall, but Headley beat the throw home.
"I've been trying to stay ready and do the best I can for our situation," said Denorfia, a late-inning defensive replacement. His playing time in the outfield has diminished because Will Venable's been hitting so well.
"I know what we're playing for and there's got to be guys in the lineup producing results. It's been tough but I'm doing my best to hang in there and contribute when I can."
Chapman wasn't throwing as hard as he was Friday night, when all 25 of his pitches were clocked at 100 mph or faster, including one at 105.
"When I got up there I tried to simplify my approach the best I could and key in on that fastball and really try to get the barrel on it and that was it," said Denorfia, who made his major league debut with Cincinnati in 2005.
Rolen didn't get to the ball in time.
"He's a brick wall over there," Denorfia said. "Nothing really gets by him. You see him standing there and it just seems like he covers from the third-base line to shortstop. I think the shadows might have helped out a little bit but it's always good to be a little lucky too."
Reds manager Dusty Baker said it was tough for Rolen to see.
"He's old," Rolen countered. "I was in the right position, the right spot. I need to knock the ball down. I needed to come up with something. I just didn't make the play.
"I get to field a ground ball, he gets to try and hit a 100-something" pitch," Rolen said of Denorfia. "Give him some credit."
The pattern of sun and shadows at Petco Park "changes pretty drastically every inning," said Headley, the Padres' third baseman. "It's not easy, and it gets worse later in the season, in September."
Heath Bell (6-0) pitched the ninth for the win.
Miguel Tejada, who hit a go-ahead, two-run single in Friday night's win, hurt his groin while batting in the eighth. Trainer Todd Hutcheson and manager Bud Black came out to check on him with a 1-1 count. Tejada singled to left, then was lifted for pinch-runner Everth Cabrera three pitches into Adrian Gonzalez's at-bat.
Black said the team will know more in 24 hours, but Tejada said he expects to play in the series finale Sunday afternoon.
The Reds left the bases loaded in the fourth, when Garland got Orlando Cabrera to ground out, and in the eighth, when left-hander Joe Thatcher came on for Mike Adams and got pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo to pop up to first baseman Gonzalez on his second pitch.
Reds star Joey Votto returned from a sinus infection that cost him three starts and hit his 36th homer, plus an RBI single. Cincinnati starter Travis Wood doubled and had a run-scoring infield hit.
Drew Stubbs opened the game with a single to left off Garland, stole second and scored on Votto's single to right.
San Diego pushed across two runs in the second and another in the third to take a 3-1 lead. Headley had an RBI single, Nick Hundley added a sacrifice fly and Venable led off the third with his 13th homer.
The Reds got those runs back during the next two innings. Wood had an RBI infield single in the fourth and Votto homered to right on Garland's first pitch of the fifth.
Garland, who had lost his last three home starts, allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings.
Wood went seven innings, yielding six hits and walking one.
NOTES: Reds OF Jonny Gomes singled with one out in the eighth to extend his hitting streak to 10, tying his career high. He also had a 10-game streak April 30-June 22, 2005, while with Tampa Bay.