SAN DIEGO -- It was developing into the type of inning that might have caused Vicente Padilla mental fits and ended in disaster. An infield single by Dave Roberts that hugged the baseline, a David Bell error and a passed ball by Mike Lieberthal created a potential perfect storm for Padilla, from which there appeared to be no escape. Pitching coach Rich Dubee went out to the mound with equal emphasis placed on mental soothing and strategy assessment.
"I reminded him to stay focused, and he said, 'I'm fine,'" Dubee said. "And he was. He said he'll go back to work, and he did." Before July 6, when Padilla's status in the starting rotation became tenuous, this inning could have easily become a five-run swing. On Saturday, the right-hander retired Ryan Klesko, intentionally walked Brian Giles, then found his mark against Mark Sweeney and Mark Loretta. "He had that ugly look on his face that he's going to get you out, where before he had a confused look," Dubee said. "He's pitching with a lot of confidence, and feels he can get anybody out." So effective and economical was Padilla that manager Charlie Manuel let him hit with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, despite a 1-0 lead and the manager's tendency to play for more runs. Padilla's attempt to bunt for a base hit on a ball that nearly hit him in the face provided the comic relief for the evening. "He needs to be careful out there," Manuel said, with a laugh. "That might not have been the best idea." The idea of taking out Padilla never occurred, partly because Manuel wanted to rest Ryan Madson, but mostly because of Padilla's 1.94 ERA over his previous seven starts. "A lot of times, when we get to the seventh inning, a guy's already did his job," said Manuel. "But I felt like he was throwing good and was strong. I saw no reason in the world why I shouldn't let him stay in. It wasn't a tough decision." Bonk: An ugly scene occurred in the fifth inning of Sunday's win, when Dubee's head met with a foul ball hit by San Diego's Miguel Olivo. Ugly, but downright hilarious. Dubee was watching rookie Rob Tejeda dazzle the Padres when Olivo fouled a ball toward the dugout. The pitching coach rushed from his seat to warn Todd Pratt and David Bell, who were converging by the steps in pursuit. The ball found Dubee. The less-than-nimble coach's attempt get out of the way went nowhere, and the ball clocked him on the top of the melon. Players laughed for a good while, and Dubee got more cluckles clutching an old-fashioned ice pack after the game. "I thought it hit the top of the dugout, it was so loud," said bullpen catcher Mick Billmeyer. Dubee's peers offered no sympathy. "Don't kid yourself, we loved it," said Mick Billmeyer. "It couldn't have happened to a better guy. I especially loved it, because he's been on me from Day 1. All the players loved it, too." "We're hoping it makes the plays of the week," said reliever Aaron Fultz. Embarrassed, Dubee jokingly refused to comment on the matter, leaving it up to everyone else, and they were more than happy to oblige. The prevailing feeling is that Dubee, arguably the biggest jokester on the team, had it coming. "[The ball] found the clown," said reliever Rheal Cormier. "Very well deserved." "What goes around comes around," said first-base coach Marc Bombard, who took particular delight since Dubee has mocked him for two days for getting hit in the knee with an errant pickoff attempt. Manuel made the incident more painful when he fined Dubee $5 fine for "using his head for something besides a hat rack. He got smoked, really. Better him than me." Third-base coach Bill Dancy took a more selfish approach. "We're concerned about the altitude [on the plane], and his head blowing up bigger than it really is," Dancy said. "I know Billmeyer was trying to watch the game, and couldn't see past his head. We're trying to get it iced so the swelling would go down before the flight, because we want to watch the movies." Big series: The Phillies return to the East Coast on Monday and begin a three-game series against a National League East rival. The Nationals make their final visit to Philadelphia for a four-game series. The teams play six more times after that, but those games are in Washington. Manuel said he's been impressed with his team's attitude and preparation since the stretch, and agreed with a question that a one-run win against the Nationals on July 10 may have been a springboard. That victory pulled the Phillies to within 7 1/2 games of first in the NL East, but it might have signaled Washington's downfall. The Nationals entered that game 2 1/2 games in front of Atlanta, and had the league's best record in one-run games. Including a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia one July 9, Washington has lost 14 out of its previous 15 one-run games, but have remained in the race. "That is a very big series," said Manuel. "It's good that we play them at home. They've stayed in there and are dangerous. They can get it going again." Philling in: The Phillies have won seven of their past 10 series. ... Geoff Geary's charity event to benefit ALS went off without a hitch Sunday. Geary, who lost his best friend, Erich Wendel, to the disease, rented the top floor of the Western Metal Supply Co. building, which makes up part of left field at PETCO Park, and sold tickets for $100. Most of the proceeds went to benefit the local chapter dedicated toward fighting the disease. Coming up: After going 4-1 with a 3.32 ERA in August, Brett Myers (10-5, 3.46 ERA) has stumbled in August. The righty has allowed nine runs in his previous two starts, spanning 13 1/3 innings.
On Monday, Myers will oppose Nationals ace Livan Hernandez (13-5, 3.51 ERA) in the series opener.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.