SAN DIEGO -- Following a victory over German troops in Egypt during World War II in 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
And as they were saying in the San Diego clubhouse after sweeping the Dodgers with a 4-0 whitewashing on Wednesday night to regain traction following that vicious 10-game losing streak. ...
"The baseball season is long and there are ebbs and flows," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Our season, up until that point, was pretty steady. I think it's a tribute to our guys. We hit a bump in the road, and I thought our guys showed resolve. We pitched well, played sound defense and executed."
Their breath back, the first-place Padres now head into a colossal four-game, showdown series with San Francisco beginning on Thursday evening, a season hanging in the balance.
With the Giants losing in Arizona on Wednesday, the Padres pushed their NL West lead -- six games as recently as 12 days ago -- back up to two games.
The Padres have beaten San Francisco in nine of 11 games this season, but the Giants have undergone significant changes from what the Padres saw in April and May (Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, Cody Ross, Madison Bumgarner).
Latos, signed by Padres scout Joe Bochy, brother of Giants manager Bruce Bochy, on Tuesday set a major-league record by working his 15th consecutive start in which he worked at least five innings with two or fewer runs allowed.
With the Giants on deck and a two-game lead in their grasp, it turns out that 10-game losing streak was not the end for the Padres. Given their sweep of the Dodgers, it probably was not even the beginning of the end.
But it clearly was the end of a beginning that saw them join the Yankees as the only teams in the game not to lose more than three in a row, the end of a beginning that was almost too smooth to believe.
Now, in whipping the Dodgers, the Padres looked like themselves again.
They won Wednesday's game behind six shutout innings from rookie Cory Luebke, 25, who was making just the second big-league start of his career. Just fill in the blanks by day, the pitching has been excellent. Black said Luebke will get the ball again for another start five days hence in Colorado.
The three-run sixth against Chad Billingsley was as good an indicator as anything that the whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-th
eir-parts Padres were back: Lefty Will Venable dropped an opposite-field blooper down the left-field line for a single, speedster Everth Cabrera bunted for a hit and pinch-hitter David Eckstein beat out a bunt attempt when Billingsley threw late to third.
"We're getting back to the way we play," Eckstein said.
"These are the things we've worked on because we knew we needed to do them," Black said. "When they go our way, it doesn't surprise us. We've worked on these things as far back as February."
Gonzalez, in a conversation before the game, said that the first several games of the losing streak was simply business as usual for the Padres -- they were playing sound ball but were simply losing. Toward the end of the streak, though, Gonzalez said he could see some of the players pressing. That eased immensely, he said, with the first two wins over the Dodgers.
So ... a new beginning for the Padres?
"We hope so," Eckstein said. "We're not going to answer that question until we clinch or don't clinch, because we'll hear about it the rest of our lives if we don't. We just have to focus on playing our game."
Likes: Trevor Hoffman earning career save No. 600. Congratulations to a man who has had a very difficult season but remains pure class. ... Former Cincinnati ace Gary Nolan visiting with the Reds in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. ... Intense scoreboard watching every night now. ... The portable iPod players. It's given yet another new life to my iTouch. Reds manager Dusty Baker has one that travels with him -- it's usually queued up in the manager's office -- and he jokes that it's his "roommate." ... The Arcade Fire's new disc, The Suburbs. ... Digging this season of Mad Men. ... Ah, back to school. A young lady was wearing this T-shirt in the St. Louis airport the other day: "We didn't come to college to find our husbands. We came to find our bridesmaids."
Dislikes: The Dodgers are playing like they've quit. Totally disinterested. ... Arizona manager Kirk Gibson being stung by a scorpion at his Arizona home this week. Among the only things more disgusting than scorpions are tarantulas. ... Human beings continue to get larger and larger with each generation. Airplane aisles continue to get smaller and smaller. The future of air travel? I don't even want to know. Let's just say that the larger people and smaller aisles are going to clash pretty badly here in a few years.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Everyone I know
"Everywhere I go
"People need some reason to believe"
-- Jackson Browne, Running on Empty