SAN DIEGO – Ryan Ludwick hit a two-run homer while Jon Garland and three relievers combined on a four-hitter to lead the San Diego Padres to a 3-0 victory Thursday that completed a three-game sweep of the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Padres protected their 2½-game lead over the Giants in the NL West going into a weekend showdown at San Francisco. Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez, who last weekend guaranteed a sweep over the Padres, will start Friday night's series opener against Padres lefty Clayton Richard. San Diego is 7-1 against the Giants this year.
The Padres earned their first-ever season sweep of the Pirates (39-75), who have the worst record in the NL. The Padres (67-46) have the league's best record.
Garland (11-8) held Pittsburgh to one hit in six innings, struck out five and walked four. Heath Bell pitched the ninth for his major league-leading 34th save in 37 chances.
San Diego threw its 14th shutout, second in the majors behind the New York Mets with 17. The Pirates were shut out for the 12th time.
Ludwick gave Garland some breathing room with his third homer this series. With Adrian Gonzalez aboard on a throwing error by shortstop Argenis Diaz, Ludwick hit a 2-0 pitch from Zach Duke into the Padres' bullpen beyond the fence in left-center for a 3-0 lead in the sixth.
Ludwick homered twice on Tuesday night, his first homers since being acquired from St. Louis in a three-team trade on July 31. He has 14 overall.
Garland provided San Diego's other run when he singled leading off the third, advanced on Jerry Hairston Jr.'s sacrifice bunt and scored on Miguel Tejada's double into the left-field corner.
Duke (5-11) allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked two.
NOTES: The rest of the pitching matchups for the Padres-Giants series are Mat Latos versus Madison Bumgarner on Saturday and Wade LeBlanc against Tim Lincecum on Sunday. ... Sanchez no-hit the Padres in San Francisco on July 10, 2009. On April 20, he held the Padres to one hit in seven innings but lost 1-0 at Petco Park. ... The Padres had their seventh sweep of the season. ... Coupled with his four hits and walk on Wednesday night, Gonzalez reached base eight straight times with two singles and Diaz's error on Thursday.