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Volquez fans five in one-hitter vs. Astros

SAN DIEGO -- A good manager, they say, is always thinking two steps ahead, which is why Bud Black had to at least consider the possibility Thursday that Edinson Volquez might not be able to finish what he started against the Astros.

So, late in the game, and while the Padres were hitting, Black ambled up to Volquez in the dugout and attempted to gauge exactly how his pitcher was feeling, what he had left in the tank and if he was able to finish what he fashioned into the best start of his career.

Black didn't get very far.

"I thought about it for a split-second," said Black, when asked if he considered letting his All-Star closer Huston Street pitch the ninth inning. "But when I talked to [Volquez] in the dugout, he had a good look in his eye."

And, apparently, a good nose for the finish.

Still throwing hard, with a big curveball and with his devastating changeup still dancing, Volquez easily put the finishing touches on a one-hit shutout, leading the Padres to a 1-0 victory over the Astros before 26,735 at Petco Park.

"This is the best feeling," Volquez said.

Volquez (6-7) needed 117 pitches to get 27 outs, walking three with five strikeouts. The lone hit he allowed was a squibber that glanced off his glove in the fourth inning as Matt Downs was able to reach base on what was rightly ruled an infield single.

If Volquez is able to field the ball and throws Downs out at first base ... well, let's just say that the Padres remain the only Major League franchise without a no-hitter.

"When you look at the fourth inning and realize that's the only hit you're going to get, you're just glad you didn't get no-hit," Downs said.

Just don't mention as much to Volquez.

"I don't want to talk about it," Volquez joked of the near-miss. "I've got to keep working on my hands ... my backhand. I've got to take some ground balls tomorrow."

The Padres (39-55), who took the last three games of this four-game series against the Astros (34-59), will be perfectly content to let Volquez rest after Thursday, a taxing effort for a pitcher who has answered the call all 20 times his turn in the rotation has come up this season.

The one-hitter was the first for the Padres since Mat Latos did so on May 13 of 2010 against the Giants. Volquez became the first Padres pitcher to toss a one-hit shutout at home since Andy Benes did so on July 3, 1994, against the Mets.

This was just the third shutout tossed by a Padres pitcher at Petco Park since the downtown ballpark opened in 2004. Jake Peavy ('09) and Ismael Valdez ('04) had the others.

"That shows you how nasty, how good a pitcher [he is] at any given time," said Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso, who came to San Diego in the same December deal with Volquez and his catcher Thursday, Yasmani Grandal. "At any given time, he could throw a no-hitter. I say that because today he had that type of stuff where he had control of everything. And you even saw the first hit was a hit that was a lucky hit. He's just that type of guy where at any given time he's going to blow you away."

Even in the ninth inning, Volquez still held his stuff. He fired a 93-mph fastball by Marwin Gonzalez and, later in that at-bat, threw a curveball for a called strike before striking him out on a changeup.

"You could see the confidence in him ... the first pitch to the last," Black said. "They didn't hit many balls hard off him. He was in command of the game."

There have been times this season when Volquez has shown stuff as good as what he displayed against the Astros. He allowed three hits over seven scoreless innings against the Brewers in May. But there's been times when his command has eluded him, like when he walked six in a game against the Rockies, or the two starts in which he allowed six runs.

But, when he's on ...

"He just knows how to harness his aggressiveness," said San Diego pitching coach Darren Balsley, who started working closely with Volquez on his mechanics and approach in February. "There's times when he'll overthrow and gets wild. And there's times when he lets his guard down."

But Balsley saw none of that Thursday. He saw a polished pitcher, a focused, well-prepared pitcher who, teamed with a rookie catcher, put together a gem.

"That was a lot of fun," Grandal said. "It would've been even better if we would've gotten that little jam shot [by Downs] out, then we would've thrown a no-hitter. But I'm happy with a one-hitter."

The Padres scored the only run they needed in the first inning when Logan Forsythe singled in a run off Astros pitcher Lucas Harrell (7-7). That hit allowed Alexi Amarista, who doubled to start the inning, time to score.

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