MILWAUKEE -- Dave Roberts hasn't appeared in a big league game in five years, yet the Padres' first-base coach had a hand in a wild victory on Thursday at Miller Park.
His left hand, to be precise.
Roberts, who also works with the team's outfielders, played a hunch in the seventh inning as he moved center fielder Will Venable slightly toward the gap in left-center field with a left-handed hitter due up.
That decision, following by a diving catch by Venable on a ball sliced by Norichika Aoki, went a long ways in helping the Padres pull off a rare road-series victory, as San Diego held on for a 10-8 victory before a crowd of 34,372.
In a game that featured 18 runs, 29 hits and enough pitching changes (nine) to make your head spin, all that anyone wanted to talk about afterwards was Venable's catch, which, mercifully for the Padres, ended what was shaping up to be a miserable inning for them.
The Brewers (42-59) trimmed a seven-run deficit to just two runs and had runners on second and third base in the seventh inning. Left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher came into the game for the sole intent of facing Aoki, who homered earlier.
That's when Roberts, a good defensive outfielder during his career, motioned to Venable to move four steps to his right, even more toward the gap in left-center.
Aoki sliced the ball toward the gap and Venable, reading the ball quickly off the bat, made a diving grab to end the inning. The Brewers wouldn't score again and, alas, the Padres (46-57) were able to secure their first road-series victory since taking two games from the Orioles on May 14-15.
"Two more inches and I don't think I have a play," Venable said.
It's gotten to the point where Padres manager Bud Black, who has seen Venable rob hitters on at least two other occasions this season, has come to anticipate these kind of plays from his center fielder.
"It's sort of unfair to Will, but we expect those plays from him," Black said. "He's a great defender. He's made tremendous catches all year. If that drops, we have a tie game."
In a game that lasted three hours and 55 minutes, with the Padres set to fly to Phoenix after the game, everyone in the visiting clubhouse was ecstatic that the ball settled into Venable's glove instead of the outfield grass.
"It's a do-or-die play," Black said.
The Brewers weren't so sure initially that Venable actually caught the ball.
"I saw movement, which made me believe that the ball hit the ground first and then bounced into his glove," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "But they said on the replay, the movement was he caught the ball, he got his little finger underneath it and actually flipped it into the glove."
The remainder of the game was devoid of any real drama, as Tim Stauffer worked a quick eighth inning and Huston Street allowed one baserunner in the ninth inning before nailing down his 18th save of the season.
Before that, though, this game was anything but humdrum.
"Topsy-turvy game," Black said. "I like the way we finished."
Nothing wrong with the way they started, either.
The Padres got a run in the first inning off Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo (8-9) and then added three in the third inning as Carlos Quentin hit a two-run home run. One inning later, San Diego scored two runs, with Yonder Alonso coming up with a two-run single off Gallardo with two outs.
That was just the start of a hit parade that saw the Padres get 16 of them. Pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman had a two-run home run in the seventh inning that proved critical. San Diego ended up needing nearly every one of those hits, too.
"I think one of the biggest things for us is our ability to put pressure on pitchers, even if it's not with hits … just making them work hard. We've got the ability to really grind out some at-bats, and when you do that, good things happen," Alonso said.
San Diego pitcher Edinson Volquez (8-8) got off to a good start, allowing one run in the first five innings before running into trouble in the sixth inning, as he allowed a home run to Carlos Gomez. Volquez was charged with another run when reliever Dale Thayer allowed an inherited runner to score.
Volquez allowed three runs on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts over his 5 1/3 innings. His curveball and changeup were good at times, Black said.
The Brewers did their damage in the seventh inning against Nick Vincent and Luke Gregerson before the Padres called upon Thatcher to get that last elusive out of the inning.
Thatcher, who throws from a lower arm slot, came at Aoki with an 86-mph fastball that stayed up in the strike zone. Aoki, a slasher, got a decent piece of the ball, though off the bat, the ball appeared destined to fall for a hit.
"I knew it was going to be close," Venable said.
Roberts, watching from the top step of the dugout, saw Venable make a good read on the ball and get a good jump. That was a good start, he thought.
"We wanted to cheat a little more to the gap," Roberts said of his late positioning with Venable. "He's good about staying in-tune with me. On a play like that, you have to react to the swing.
"But I tell you what. I don't see too many guys in baseball making that play."