SAN DIEGO — Nolan Arenado trotted out his home run and looked up as he crossed home plate.
With one swing from their cleanup man, the Colorado Rockies buried a long scoreless streak Friday night, then went on to a 4-1 victory over the San Diego Padres.
Ian Desmond and Trevor Story also homered for Colorado, which had dropped consecutive shutouts and was sputtering again before Arenado’s leadoff homer, his 35th, ended a 23-inning drought in the fifth.
“That’s Nolan,” Story said. “He does big things in big spots.”
Jon Gray (9-4) pitched six innings to win his fourth straight road start, and Colorado ended a four-game losing streak.
The Rockies stayed 1 1/2 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the National League’s second wild card. The Milwaukee Brewers are two games back.
Greg Holland picked up his 41st save, tying Jose Jimenez’s club record set in 2002.
Gray said he figured the team’s offense was too good to struggle so badly for much longer.
“So,” he said, “I knew we were going to get out of it. They hit the ball hard tonight, made some good plays on defense. We’re headed in the right direction.”
The Rockies had no baserunners against former teammate Jordan Lyles (1-4) before Arenado hit the second pitch of the fifth over the right-field wall.
“I knew from then on — that was going to break the ice, our offense was going to be in a different gear,” Story said.
Two outs later, Desmond followed with his sixth homer, also an opposite-field drive.
Story led off the seventh with his 22nd homer, offsetting Lyles’ run-scoring single in the fifth. Story also made a diving stab at shortstop to bolster Gray.
The lead grew to 4-1 when a single from Jonathan Lucroy scored Desmond in the seventh.
Gray maintained his recent form, allowing fewer than four runs for the 12th consecutive start.
“I feel more comfortable every time out,” he said.
Gray struck out eight and walked one, lowering his ERA to 3.62. He has a 1.44 ERA over his past four outings away from Denver.
“When he was attacking, he was dominant,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “We just didn’t do much against him.”
Green called it a “step forward” for Lyles, who struck out five while facing the minimum 12 batters through four innings.
It was the second time Lyles faced Colorado since the Rockies designated him for assignment July 29.
Side-arm reliever Pat Neshek stranded two baserunners to preserve a 4-1 lead in the seventh.
After Gray’s 96-mph pitch near the head drove him to the dirt, Padres rookie Manuel Margot rifled a triple, his team-high seventh, later in the at-bat.
Liking San Diego
Desmond’s homer was his fourth this season at San Diego, one short of Arenado’s single-season club record at the downtown ballpark.
RHP Chad Bettis (1-3, 6.23) will make his first start Saturday since getting only one out — the shortest start of his career — Sept. 14 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bettis, who allowed five runs, was given extra time between starts this week to work on sharpening his pitches.