The Force Is With Them

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images

    The spotlight was shining on Miguel Tejada and the Padres on Friday night.

    Tejada hit a go-ahead, two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning and the Padres beat Cincinnati 4-3 to take the NL wild-card lead and keep the Reds' magic number at three for clinching the NL Central.

    The 36-year-old Tejada worked the count full against Nick Masset before singling past diving shortstop Orlando Cabrera to bring in Chase Headley and Will Venable. Tejada pumped his fist the entire way to first base, gave an emphatic high-five to coach Rick Renteria and then did the "spotlight," where he raises his right hand over his head and pretends to shine a light on his teammates in the dugout.

    His teammates gave the spotlight right back.

    "Absolutely," said Chris Young, who made his second start in his return from a strained shoulder. "He deserves it. He's earned it. He's out there on base, he's made it happen. It shows what a team player he is, too. He's trying to deflect the attention to the guys in the dugout. He's awesome."

    Tejada was as animated as he's been since coming over from the Baltimore Orioles on July 30.

    "When you do something good for your team, it's got to be exciting," said Tejada, who has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games. "I'm really excited because it's the lead. We have only nine games left. We saw San Francisco win earlier, and to come through in that moment was really good for me, and to see all my teammates jumping around is good."

    Tejada had three RBIs for the Padres, who took a half-game lead over Atlanta in the wild-card race and remained a half game behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.

    Cincinnati still needs a combination of three wins or three St. Louis Cardinals losses to clinch its first playoff berth since 1995. Joey Votto missed his third straight start due to a sinus infection. He struck out in the ninth as a pinch-hitter.

    The Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 7-1. The Giants beat Colorado 2-1 and the Braves lost 8-3 to Washington.

    Headley started the winning rally with a one-out single to right against Arthur Rhodes (4-4). Pinch-hitter Nick Hundley walked and was forced on Venable's grounder. Masset came on and walked David Eckstein to load the bases and bring up Tejada.

    "That's a great at-bat," Tejada said. "I got the chance to get to 3-2, and be able to get one pitch to hit."

    Tejada "is an emotional player," manager Bud Black said. "He's passionate about playing. Loves to play. Like a lot of great players, they thrive on those situations. When the stakes are high, he gives you a very good at-bat."

    Said Reds manager Dusty Baker: "With two walks, that really hurt, especially when you have a dangerous hitter, a clutch hitter, like Miguel Tejada up there. It was a situation where Tejada got the best of us there."

    After Tejada's hit, rookie Aroldis Chapman came on and struck out Adrian Gonzalez on fastballs clocked at 101, 102 and 103 mph to end the inning. All 25 of Chapman's pitches were 100 mph or faster, topping out at 105 mph.

    Luke Gregerson (4-7) retired four batters for the win. Heath Bell pitched the ninth for his 44th save in 47 chances, and his 31st straight.

    "These guys are fighting tooth and nail to try and get into the playoffs," Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo said about the Padres. "They have a little more pressure on them than we do on our end. It definitely was a playoff-type atmosphere tonight."

    Young got his second straight no-decision in his return from a strained shoulder that kept him out from April 12 until last Saturday. He allowed one run and three hits in five innings, struck out one and walked three.

    Young allowed Drew Stubbs' homer off the facade of the second deck in left field with one out in the second to give the Reds a 1-0 lead. It was his 21st.

    Arroyo retired the first nine Padres batters before Venable singled up the middle leading off the fourth. He stole second and scored on Tejada's single to left to tie it at 1.

    The Padres went ahead 2-1 in the fifth when Matt Stairs hit a leadoff single and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Mike Baxter, who was pinch-hitting for Young.

    That lead didn't last long, though, as the Reds scored two unearned runs in the sixth by cobbling together three singles -- two of which didn't leave the infield -- and an error by first baseman Gonzalez.

    Arroyo allowed two runs and five hits in five innings, struck out three and walked none.