The impressive start from Rusch (5-1) was exactly what the Cubs needed after taxing their bullpen in a three-game sweep at Los Angeles.
He allowed just four singles in pitching his first complete game of the season and his third career shutout. The left-hander retired 17 of his last 19 batters, struck out seven and walked one. Only one Padres' baserunner reached second.
"That was great for us," manager Dusty Baker said. "My bullpen's a little spent, some guys need some days off and that was just what the doctor ordered. He even got a hit. He threw a great ballgame."
Rusch threw 122 pitches, "more pitches than what we wanted him to," Baker said, "but when you've got a chance for a complete-game shutout, you've got to go for it."
Rusch improved to 3-1 with two no-decisions since moving into the rotation after Kerry Wood went on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder on May 3. Mark Prior also is on the DL with a fracture near his right elbow.
"I think everybody here takes pride in stepping in and doing the best job we can when those guys aren't healthy," Rusch said. "We know when we get them healthy, we're going to be a real force to be reckoned with."
As it is, the Cubs have gone from three games under .500 to 28-24 in one week, and have pulled within 5½ games of NL Central-leading St. Louis.
"I said a few weeks ago that we've been playing good baseball, we've just been an inch short of winning ballgames, and now we're on the other end of the spectrum," Rusch said.
Rusch credited his defense, and he had a nice play, too. When Dave Roberts hit a grounder leading off the sixth, Rusch fielded the ball and, as he dived, scooped it with his glove to first baseman Lee for the putout.
"We couldn't do anything offensively," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "He came right at us and got it done tonight. We hit some balls hard, but right at someone."
The Padres lost for the second straight night to a left-hander. Doug Davis and the Milwaukee Brewers won 5-2 on Wednesday.
"We need to get the bats rolling," Bochy said.
The NL West-leading Padres lost consecutive games for just the second time in 32 games. They were 22-6 in May, their best month ever. San Diego also lost consecutive games at home for the first time this season.
The Cubs have had at least 10 hits in every game of the winning streak. The Cubs also won their sixth straight road game, the first time they've done that since 1991.
Lee, whose average is the best in the majors, walked in his first two at-bats against rookie Tim Stauffer. He singled in his next three at-bats, making him 8-for-8 over two games and 11-for-13 in his last three.
His first single of the night, to right-center in the sixth inning, was the 1,000th hit of his career.
Lee came up through the Padres' organization and played his first 22 big league games with San Diego in 1997 before being sent to Florida that December in the deal that brought Kevin Brown to the Padres.
Lee matched his career high with five hits in a 9-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
Rusch doubled leading off the third and Lee walked with two outs ahead of Jeromy Burnitz's double into the left-center gap for a 2-0 lead.
Aramis Ramirez and Jason Dubois hit RBI singles in the sixth. Todd Walker had a leadoff homer to right-center in the seventh, his second. The 418-foot shot was the longest at Petco Park this year.
"Once we jumped out, and added a couple more runs on them, it was a good cushion for me to be aggressive and get ahead," Rusch said.
Stauffer (1-2) allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings, walked two and struck out one.
- Rusch's win coupled with John Koronka's victory Wednesday against the Dodgers marked the first time Cubs lefties have won consecutive games since Steve Trout and Jamie Moyer did it July 21-22, 1987.
- San Diego's Geoff Blum singled in consecutive at-bats for his seventh straight multi-hit game, the longest current streak in the majors.
- The last Padres player with seven straight multihit games was Tony Gwynn in July 1995.
- Padres 3B Sean Burroughs missed his eighth straight start with a strained left quadriceps. Bochy said there's a chance Burroughs will start Friday night against the Cubs.
- Neifi Perez of the Cubs singled in the ninth to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.