The San Diego Padres returned to the place where last season's collapse was completed. This time, they found a way to avoid another meltdown.
Will Venable hit his second home run of the season and the Padres pounced on Tim Lincecum in a 5-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Monday, getting a small dose of satisfaction against the defending World Series champions.
The Giants eliminated the Padres from playoff contention on the final day of the 2010 season at AT&T Park. It was the culmination of a horrible finish that included a 10-game losing streak stretching into September.
"It had that same feel, tight game where they're never out of it," Venable said. "As good and consistent as our bullpen is, they always get it done against them. It always seems like they get a couple guys on base and make it interesting."
San Diego built enough of a cushion to withstand the late push.
Chase Headley, Orlando Hudson and Ryan Ludwick each had an RBI off Lincecum (6-7) to chase the Giants' ace after five innings. Nick Hundley added an RBI single in the eighth and Venable's solo shot came in the ninth.
Clayton Richard (5-9) struck out two and gave up two hits and three walks in five innings. After two separate four-game losing streaks this season, the lefty has won three straight.
Heath Bell allowed a run in the ninth and put the potential tying runs in scoring position with one out. Then he got Andres Torres to fly out and Aaron Rowand to ground out for his 25th save.
"It just seems like we play these heart-stoppers all the time," Padres manager Bud Black said.
The rally came too late for the Giants.
About the lone bright spot before the ninth was Pablo Sandoval, who hit a two-run homer into McCovey Cove and finished a triple shy of the cycle. He also extended his career-high hitting streak to 15 games and has an extra-base hit in nine straight.
The Padres wasted little time against Lincecum on a day he was hardly at his dominating best.
They put a runner on base in all five innings against the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner. And the aggressive, free-swinging approach worked from the opening pitch.
Venable and Jason Bartlett singled to start the first. Venable scored on Headley's sacrifice fly to center, and Hudson drove in Bartlett with a single later in the inning to give San Diego a 2-0 lead.
After Bartlett doubled to open the fifth, Ludwick hit an RBI single to put San Diego ahead 3-0. That was enough to get Giants manager Bruce Bochy to dig into his bullpen early.
Lincecum allowed three runs on seven hits and has only one win in his last seven starts. He struck out four and walked two in his shortest outing since going four innings on June 11, and he's never had a losing record this late in the season.
"I didn't feel like I had a good rhythm or energy," Lincecum said. "But that's the excuse I seem to give every time. I fell behind hitters and every pitch seemed difficult instead of cruising. I didn't have it from the start. You have to grind through it. I didn't grind hard enough. I wasn't hitting my spots.
"It was a pretty bad outing all the way around."
Richard was in complete control against the offensively challenged Giants. He induced double plays in the second and fifth, and the only time San Francisco reached second base against Richard came on Sandoval's two-out double in the first.
Richard left after throwing just 76 pitches through five innings because of shoulder stiffness, which isn't expected to affect his next start. He struck out two and gave up two hits and three walks, and perhaps the Padres should've stuck with him longer.
Sandoval smacked a 2-1 pitch from Ernesto Frieri over the right-field wall for the first splash shot of the season, trimming San Diego's lead to 3-2 and sending kayakers scurrying into the chilly waters for the ball. The home run was the 56th by a Giants player into McCovey Cove, with 35 belonging to home run king Barry Bonds.
NOTES: Headley was ejected in the ninth after he struck out swinging, leaving his bat at home plate and muttering a few words to umpire Tim Timmons. ... Giants OF Cody Ross was replaced by a pinch-runner in the sixth inning because of a mild left hamstring strain. He is day to day. ... Padres reliever Joe Thatcher threw about 25 pitches off the mound for the first time since left shoulder surgery two months ago. ... Padres RHP Aaron Harang (bruised right foot) was scheduled to begin his rehab stint Monday night at Class-A Lake Elsinore.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP