SAN DIEGO -- If Wade LeBlanc can start next season like he finished this one, he might not have to shuttle back and forth between the minors and majors anymore.
The left-hander held San Francisco to two hits in seven innings and struck out a career-high eight to lead the San Diego Padres to a 2-0 win over the Giants on Saturday night.LeBlanc (3-1), in his third stint this season with the Padres, improved to 3-0 in six September starts. He walked one and allowed only one base runner to reach second.LeBlanc had a rough two-start stretch in June, lasting just three innings in a no-decision against Oakland and 1 1/3 innings in a loss at Seattle. He was sent back to Triple-A the day after the start at Seattle."It was embarrassing," LeBlanc said. "I went back down and mentally made up my mind that I need to do something different. I want to get even better. I still don't feel like I have a spot locked up" for next season.The Giants, eliminated from the wild-card race on Wednesday night, got only a pair of singles off LeBlanc, by Pablo Sandoval in the first and Jesus Guzman, pinch-hitting for Matt Cain, in the sixth.The Giants' two hits tied their season-low.LeBlanc retired the side in order from the second through the fifth innings.On Sept. 9 at San Francisco, LeBlanc pitched seven strong innings in a 2-1 win."Wade was outstanding right from the first pitch of the game to his last," manager Bud Black said. "The game he pitched against the Giants up there and this one were maybe his two best games."The Padres improved to 37-24 since July 28, the fourth-best record in the major leagues during that span. The Padres are 10-7 against the Giants this year with one game to go, clinching the season series for the third time in five years.LeBlanc "did a good job of changing speeds," San Francisco's Aaron Rowand said. "He definitely keeps you off balance. We've had some problems against left-handers from time to time. But give him credit."Heath Bell pitched the ninth for his NL-leading 42nd save in 48 chances.Cain (14-8) allowed two runs and six hits in five innings, with five strikeouts and one walk.Cain allowed plenty of base runners early and the Padres capitalized. Chase Headley hit an RBI single in the first and Adrian Gonzalez singled in a run in the third."He battled," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He threw a lot of pitches. The first couple of innings, he worked hard. But he kept us in the game. We didn't do anything offensively."
Padres vice chairman and CEO Jeff Moorad said he's interviewed three candidates to replace Kevin Towers, who's been fired as GM. Towers is finishing out the season. He was on the field during batting practice and even signed a few autographs near the Padres' dugout. Towers was fired with one year left on his contract, at nearly $2 million. ... LHP Jonathan Sanchez, who no-hit the Padres on July 10 in San Francisco, will start for the Giants in Sunday's season finale. The Padres will counter with rookie LHP Cesar Ramos.