SAN DIEGO -- Sometimes a big defensive play can be just as exciting for a team as a big hit.
The Padres were the beneficiaries of three such defensive gems during Thursday's 6-3 victory over the Dodgers.
Second baseman Logan Forsythe started it off by making a twisting catch before falling to the outfield grass on a popup, then left fielder Chris Denorfia dove over the fence in foul territory to make a catch. Those catches occurred on consecutive plays in the seventh inning. Finally, center fielder Alexi Amarista ran down and needed full extension to grab a fly ball in right-center field in the eighth inning.
But which was the best?
"If I were to rank them, I don't know if I could," manager Bud Black said. "They're great plays."
"I have no idea," said reliever Nick Vincent as he shook his head.
Amarista's catch almost certainly saved a run, and Black said it's impossible to predict how things would've turned out had those balls fallen. The Padres' strong defense and knack for highlight-reel plays have been instrumental to their recent hot streak -- their 12-7 record in June is the best in the National League.
"It can really galvanize a group for that moment," Black said. "It does show that our guys come to make those type of plays."
"And they, to a man, aren't afraid to dive and lay out and do all the things you have to do to make a great play. I don't think there's not one guy this year that's not dove for a ball."
Headley adjusts to seeing more offspeed pitches
SAN DIEGO -- After striking out in his first three at-bats Thursday, Chase Headley came up with a run-scoring single in the seventh inning of the Padres' 6-3 victory over the Dodgers.
"It always feels good to get a big hit, especially when things haven't been going great," Headley said.
Headley went into Friday night's game against the Dodgers hitting .222, including a .167 mark in June. He has yet to find the success he had a year ago when he led the National League with 115 RBIs.
Headley said he's been fed a steady diet of offspeed pitches that have given him trouble, although those are coming at different times and in different counts.
"There has been a lot of offspeed stuff, but there are not a lot of teams that are following the same pattern of pitching to me," he said.
Take Thursday's game. Headley struck out in the first inning and again in the fourth inning. When he came to bat in the fifth inning, he figured the Dodgers would keep throwing him offspeed pitches, because that had worked against him earlier in the game.
"But then they threw me all fastballs," Headley said.
Still, despite his struggles Thursday and, on a larger scale, this season, Headley found some solace in getting a hit in the seventh inning that gave the Padres a little extra breathing room.
He just wishes there would be more of them.
"It felt good, but you don't want them to feel that good because it means you haven't done it enough," he said.
Ciriaco fitting in quickly while filling in for Cabrera
SAN DIEGO -- It didn't take Pedro Ciriaco long to feel at home with his new club.
On Thursday, he went 2-for-4 with a triple and a two-run homer, helping the Padres to a seventh consecutive home victory as they defeated the Dodgers, 6-3.
"Crazy. I've been here for a week and I feel like it's been a year," Ciriaco said after the game. "They make it easy for me and everyone on the team, manager and coaches have been incredible."
It's been exactly one week since the Padres acquired Ciriaco from the Red Sox, a move that didn't make many headlines and one that Ciriaco admitted surprised him a bit.
But the acquisition has paid off greatly for both sides.
Two days after the acquisition, the Padres lost their starting shortstop, Everth Cabrera, to the disabled list with a hamstring injury. The club inserted Ciriaco, who made his fourth start at shortstop for the Padres on Friday.
Ciriaco wasn't acquired for his offense -- he was hitting .216 in 28 games with the Red Sox -- so his hot bat has been an added bonus. Ciriaco is hitting .412 with two runs, a triple, a home run and three RBIs in 17 at-bats.
Padres manager Bud Black said Ciriaco's biggest impact will be on defense, some of which was also on display Thursday when he and second baseman Logan Forsythe turned a key ninth-inning double play to help seal the victory.
Forsythe and Ciriaco have been taking pregame grounders together and working to develop a connection as they fill in for injured second baseman Jedd Gyorko and Cabrera.
"Pretty good especially for being a couple games in with each other," Forsythe said. "We've made some good turns.
"You want to make a new guy, especially if he's going to play, feel as comfortable as possible. We got a lot of great guys in this clubhouse. … Our older guys make sure that's a priority."
• Infielder/outfielder James Darnell was granted his unconditional release on Friday. The Padres sought release waivers on him Wednesday. Darnell, who hit .226 in 62 at-bats with the Padres from 2011-12, was seeking a medical opinion on the left shoulder that he injured in a Minor League game with Triple-A Tucson earlier this season. The team could still re-sign him to a Minor League contract.
• Left fielder Carlos Quentin missed his seventh consecutive start Friday with a sore left shoulder. Quentin did hit on the field during batting practice before the game, the first time he's done so since he suffered the injury exactly a week ago. There's no timetable as to when he could return to the starting lineup.
• Second baseman Jedd Gyorko's right groin strain is close to fully healed. He's taken part in on-field drills before games, including running. He's hit during batting practice in the cage and could go on a Minor League rehab assignment as soon as Saturday. He's eligible to be reinstated from the disabled list on Tuesday.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.