Padres win third straight, shrink magic number to eight

DENVER (AP) -- Teams that inch over .500 at this point in the season are normally building for next year.

The San Diego Padres are an exception. They're thinking more about next month.

Khalil Greene hit two homers, including the game-winning solo shot in the ninth inning, to lift the Padres back past the break-even mark with an 8-7 victory over the Colorado Rockies on
Monday night.

Greene took a 1-0 pitch off Rockies closer Brian Fuentes (2-4) to left-center to help San Diego pull one out in the late innings for the third straight game and improve to 75-74. They moved six games ahead of idle San Francisco in the weak NL West and their magic number shrunk to eight.

"I think these are the kind of games that you see in the playoffs," Greene said. "And the teams there have an ability to come from behind and win games. You have to be able to do that to compete. We weren't doing that at one point, but we are having some success at it again."

Scott Linebrink (8-1) threw two scoreless innings to pick up the win. Trevor Hoffman pitched the ninth for his 36th straight save and 39th overall.

But the real star of this game, and San Diego's modest winning streak, has been Greene. Two days ago, he hit a grand slam in San Diego's rally from 5-0 down in the ninth against Washington on the way to a 12-inning, 8-5 win.

"He is playing inspiring ball for us right now," manager Bruce Bochy said.

His first homer in this one came in the second inning for a 2-0 lead. He also had a double in the seventh.

For the record, the loss officially knocked the Rockies out of playoff contention -- on Sept. 19, an unusually late date to say it's over for a team with a 61-88 record.

But that's the nature of the NL West.

The Padres, who have hovered around .500 since late July, lost to Los Angeles on Sept. 11 to fall to 71-71 and hadn't made it over the break-even point since. Still, they haven't been out of first place since May 25. They have three more games against the Rockies
before heading to Arizona for three.

They were pushed all night by Colorado, which is 25-21 since July 31, sixth best in the majors over that span, and 46-53 since June 1, which is tied with San Francisco for the best record in the NL West over that period.

Yet it's hard to say the rebuilding Rockies have climbed over the hump.

Colorado lost this game in typical fashion, committing three errors -- two by shortstop Clint Barmes and another by second baseman Aaron Miles -- to bring its NL-leading total to 111. That put more pressure on the pitching staff, especially Fuentes, the closer who left the 1-0 pitch a little high and then watched Greene drive it out of the deepest part of the park.

"That's probably a pitch you'd like to have back," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "But we made a lot of mistakes in the game that put us in that situation."

Todd Helton of the Rockies had a triple and Matt Holliday
singled him home in the seventh to tie the game at 7. Garrett Atkins and Cory Sullivan each had two singles. Starting pitcher Sunny Kim, trying to earn a spot in Colorado's 2006 rotation, allowed 11 hits, seven runs and three homers and blew leads of 3-2 and 6-5 before being lifted in the sixth.

It was better than San Diego starter Brian Lawrence fared. He lasted only 2 1/3 innings, allowing nine hits and five runs, before being relieved by Chan Ho Park, who made his first appearance out of the bullpen since 2001.

Brian Giles had three hits, including a homer off Kim in the second for San Diego's first run.

Greene, meanwhile, had his fourth career multihomer game -- a performance that couldn't have come at a better time.

"You just have to do it and not force things, and if you try to plug along and keep going and keep yourself in a position to get to the postseason, then you can do it," he said.

Game notes
Kim had his first two RBI of the season on a single and sacrifice fly. ... The game drew 18,238 fans, only 54 more than the all-time low at Coors Field set earlier this season. ... Linebrink extended his scoreless streak to 18 2/3 innings.