SAN DIEGO -- No offense to those who make a living pinch-hitting, because Carlos Quentin holds them in high esteem, but the Padres outfielder would prefer to take his four at-bats consecutively with a dash of defense sprinkled in for good measure.
"It's a very difficult task and I have a lot of respect for the guys who do it," Quentin said. "I've been very fortunate to draw on experiences that I've had. But it's a very fickle thing."
But it's one Quentin isn't adverse to, as his third consecutive pinch-hit in the last nine days allowed a critical run to score Sunday as the Padres edged the Cubs, 4-3, before a crowd of 32,167 at Petco Park.
On Monday, Quentin will be back out in left field, thus robbing the Padres of one of their more effective bats off the bench, though the flip side of that means Quentin is healthy enough to play defense again after a right groin issue sidelined him from the starting lineup for the past week.
The Padres, who split a four-game series with the Cubs, will take Quentin's bat in whatever dosage they can. On Sunday, that meant a pinch-hit single as part of a four-run sixth inning that gave his team a three-run cushion, which would become important later in the game.
"He's a dynamic offensive player," manager Bud Black said Saturday.
Quentin's last three pinch-hit appearances have produced three hits -- a pair of two-run home runs and a single Sunday that fueled a big inning on a day where offense looked to be in short supply on each side with the way Jason Hammel and Ian Kennedy were pitching.
The Padres (23-28) entered the sixth inning with two hits -- and those didn't come until the fifth inning, as Yonder Alonso singled up the middle off Hammel and Cameron Maybin got on base with a swinging bunt single that might have rolled all of 15 feet out in front of the plate.
Hammel (5-3) entered the sixth inning with 66 pitches and appeared to be holding his stuff, though he soon began to waver. First, he allowed a pinch-hit single to Tommy Medica, who started his day with a 4:10 a.m. wakeup call in Tacoma, where Triple-A El Paso was playing a series. Medica then took a flight to San Diego and came directly to the ballpark, where he was added to the roster.
Everth Cabrera walked and Will Venable reached on a fielder's choice, as Medica was cut down at third base. But the inning was far from over, as Seth Smith coaxed a walk from Hammel after an eight-pitch at-bat. Chase Headley tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
That would be it for Hammel, who probably deserved better. He would be charged with three runs on three hits in 5 2/3 innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
Chicago relief pitcher James Russell came in and then was promptly met by Quentin, who grounded a single into left field to make it 2-1. He was replaced on the bases by pitcher Tyson Ross.
Chicago manager Rick Renteria went to his bullpen again, but Brian Schlitter didn't fare much better, as he allowed a ball into the gap in right-center field off the bat of Jedd Gyorko to make it 3-1. One more run -- on Ross' long legs and strides -- came around to score as center fielder Emilio Bonifacio bobbled the ball.
"Those back-to-back hits by Q and Jedd turned out to be the game," said Black, who cringed watching his standout pitcher run the bases, complete with a slide at home.
Black, a former pitcher himself, was once called upon to pinch-run while with the Giants. He said that the experience scared the hell out of him.
"That's unnerving as a pitcher. Believe it or not I did it once or twice, it's not a great feeling," Black said. "Your first thought is don't get picked off, don't do anything stupid."
Ross admitted to being anxious as well.
"I knew I had to get to third base," said Ross, who wore a dirt stain on the right knee of his pants. "It's an unfamiliar position for me. I was a little nervous."
Those four runs made a winner of Kennedy for the first time this season in seven starts at Petco Park, a ballpark that is supposed to favor pitchers -- and fly-ball pitchers like Kennedy.
"I got a lot of question about pitching at Petco. I think my ERA is higher at Petco too, now. But it is what it is," Kennedy said. "That's how the season works sometimes."
Kennedy (3-6) has a 3.59 ERA after 11 starts this season, though Sunday's start might have been one of his best, as he allowed one run on two hits in six innings with two walks and six strikeouts. The only run that he allowed came on a Junior Lake home run in the sixth inning.
"Kennedy was great," Black said. "He deserved that one."
The Padres gave two runs back in the ninth inning as closer Huston Street, who hadn't pitched since May 17, allowed a four-pitch walk to Anthony Rizzo and then a two-run home run to Starlin Castro. But Street got the final three outs for his 14th save in as many opportunities