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SEA@SD: Denorfia puts Padres ahead with single

SAN DIEGO -- There was a feeling of blissful fulfillment that washed over Jesse Hahn on Thursday as he spoke with reporters about his outing against the Mariners.

It wasn't so much that he earned the victory, the second in as many starts for the Padres rookie, though that was certainly part of it. It wasn't entirely about how he kept his team in a tight game, either.

It was the fact that Hahn, 24, was able to pitch into and even complete the seventh inning in the Padres' 4-1 victory over the Mariners in front of a crowd of 18,755 at Petco Park that had him buzzing the most.

"I feel like a starter again," Hahn said, beaming. "To be able to pitch past the fifth inning ... it makes you feel like a starter again."

Before Thursday's outing, a seven-inning gem that saw him allow one unearned run, the last time that Hahn (2-1) pitched seven innings in a start was 2010, when he was a junior at Virginia Tech. Tommy John surgery that July sidelined him, causing him to miss the 2011 season.

Since then, Hahn has been limited to short starts, first with the Rays -- the team that drafted him in 2010 -- and the Padres, who landed him in a trade during this past offseason.

And while Hahn figures to be limited to 110 or so innings, he's free and clear to pitch until somebody takes the ball from him. On Thursday, that was the last thing pitching coach Darren Balsley wanted to do.

"He's not afraid to throw any pitch in any count," Balsley said. "That's pretty rare for a young pitcher."

Speaking of rarities, the Padres' offense, scoreless through the first six innings against Mariners pitcher Erasmo Ramirez, broke through with a four-run seventh inning against relievers Dominic Leone (2-1) and Joe Beimel.

"They made a pitching change and it got us going," Padres manager Bud Black said.

With one out, Tommy Medica -- who had a pinch-hit, RBI single that proved to be the game-winner on Wednesday -- tripled to the gap in right-center field. Cameron Maybin followed with another triple to almost the exact same spot as the Padres (31-42) tied the game.

"That right-center gap is a far ways away and any time you can get a ball in the gap here like that, you can really run," Medica said.

Pinch-hitter Carlos Quentin walked and another pinch-hitter, Chris Denorfia, singled hard into center to score Maybin for a 2-1 lead. Beimel, a lefty, came in from the bullpen to face Everth Cabrera, a switch-hitter. Cabrera, hitting right-handed, lined a ball up the middle to score two runs.

"I thought we saw a lot of good at-bats in that inning," Black said.

And, to be sure, a lot of good pitches from Hahn, who excelled in just his third Major League start. Five days ago, he tossed six scoreless innings in earning his first Major League victory over the Mets at Citi Field. On Thursday, he went one step -- and one inning further.

Hahn allowed an unearned run in the fifth inning and little else. He allowed five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts, getting a lot of mileage out of his curveball.

"The curve came into play and they stressed him but he made some pitches," Black said. "The ball-strike ratio (60-33) was good, he fielded his position and he showed a lot of composure."

Hahn became the first pitcher in franchise history to go at least six innings without allowing an earned run in two of his first three starts. He's just the 41st pitcher since 1914 to accomplish such a feat.

"I'm not going to take anything away from their young man. I thought he threw a pretty good game," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "He kept us off-balance with his slow curveball and kept his fastball down for the most part."

The challenge now, of course, is for Hahn to keep repeating performances akin to this one. They won't always have to be of the no-run variety. As a rookie, he knows there will be bumps along the way, too. Remember, he hadn't pitched above Class A before this season.

"Each start, I'm building up innings and my pitch-count," he said. "I feel like I'm getting stronger and stronger. Hopefully next start, I'll be able to go eight [innings], maybe a complete game."

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