CHICAGO -- For a second, Padres manager Bud Black thought Jon Garland's impressive outing was going to be ruined.
Garland pitched seven innings and Jerry Hairston Jr. scored the game's only run and the San Diego Padres beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 on Tuesday night.
The NL West-leading Padres won for the eighth time in nine games and moved five games ahead of the second-place San Francisco Giants.
Heath Bell pitched a scoreless ninth for his major league-leading 36th save in 39 opportunities, but not before nearly allowing a game-ending two-run home run in the ninth to Blake DeWitt.
After allowing a leadoff single to Aramis Ramirez, Bell struck out the next two batters. DeWitt followed a long fly ball to right and Ryan Ludwick went into the ivy and ended the game with a leaping catch.
"There's a moment that you say 'Oh no.' But then you track the ball and watch the outfielder there's a moment things look good and then the ball is in his glove," said Black.
Ludwick felt good the whole way and knew he would have room to make the catch.
"I got to the track out there. I think I had three steps on it [wall], so I knew it was coming up. But I also saw where the flight of the ball was, so I knew I had room. It was just a matter of catching it," Ludwick said.
Dewitt, who was traded to Cubs on July 31, had faced Bell when he was a member of the Dodgers.
"You're kind of looking for a ball up. Bell's reputation he is a great closer, he's got great stuff, you're looking for a pitch that you can hit hard somewhere. I was just trying to keep the inning alive and move the runner," said DeWitt. "It was a tough night, regardless of the last inning," said DeWitt, who also had a hit taken away from him in the fourth inning with a runner on third by a diving catch by left fielder Will Venable.
Garland (12-8) allowed four hits and pitched around three walks with three strikeouts. He retired the last 12 batters he faced. He surpassed his win total from last season. The right-hander has pitched 17 scoreless innings dating to three starts. He has only allowed five hits in his last 12 innings.
"He's one of those guys as the game goes along he gets into a groove. I can't explain it. There's a rhythm to pitching. Jon's one of those guys as the game progresses he finds his rhythm," said Black.
Garland said the key to his success is getting ahead of hitters.
"When you get ahead of big league hitters, I don't want to say it makes them uneasy, but they can't lock on one pitch, you've got to protect," Garland said.
The Padres, who had just three hits in the game, improved to a season-high 24 games over .500 (71-47).
The Cubs have lost eight of its last nine home games.
Padres reliever Mike Adams pitched out of trouble in the eighth. With runners on first and second and one out, he induced Marlon Byrd to ground into a double play.
Cubs starter Randy Wells (5-11), who allowed six earned runs in his last start at San Francisco, rebounded to pitch seven strong innings. He allowed one run and three hits, struck out six and walked three and hit a batter. Hairston led off the game with a single and advanced to second on Miguel Tejada's walk. One out later, Wells hit Ludwick to load the bases. Hairston scored on Chase Headley's groundout.
"I came in a little to amped up. I was trying to establish the sinker early and missed it a couple of times," said Wells.
Wells is hoping he can improve in the final month and half to put himself in position to earn spot in next season's starting rotation.
"They are big for me. You want to put yourself in contention for next year. They're showcasing a lot of young guys up here, a lot of guys are deserving of a job, you have to show you can pitch and hopefully put yourself in contention," Wells said.
Notes: Cubs 1B Derrek Lee missed his second game with a bulging disc in his back. He is listed as day-to-day. ... Padres 2B David Eckstein is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Single-A Fort Wayne on Wednesday. He has been on the DL with a right calf strain since July 21.