SAN DIEGO — Hunter Renfroe had a busy first big league start for the San Diego Padres.

He got his first two hits. He learned that it is indeed a game of inches when he couldn’t quite catch Joe Panik’s fly ball that went for a double during a San Francisco rally in the eighth. He even got to show off his strong arm.

The Padres lost 2-1 as Angel Pagan’s single broke a scoreless tie in the eighth and Jeff Samardzija struck out nine in seven innings for the Giants, who kept pace with the New York Mets for the NL wild-card lead.

The Giants faced a Padres’ lineup that included five rookies, three making their first big league starts. The Giants snapped a six-game losing streak to the Padres, who have been their nemesis during their second-half skid. The Padres swept the Giants at San Francisco last week and in San Diego in the first series after the All-Star break. The Giants had swept the Padres three times in the first two months of the season.

Panik, who had been in an 0-for-24 slump, doubled to right-center opening the eighth against Christian Friedrich (5-11). His fly ball ticked off the end of Renfroe’s glove, hit the ground and bounced over the fence. Kelby Tomlinson, pinch-hitting for Samardzija, singled to left to put runners on the corners and chase Friedrich. Brad Hand came on and induced Eduardo Nunez to hit into a force, with Panik holding at third. Pagan then hit a blooper that landed just fair and brought in Panik.

Renfroe fielded Panik’s hit and made a strong throw, but first baseman Wil Myers cut it off.

“Since there was no other play there, Wil probably wants to let that ball go,” manager Andy Green said. “I think he’d say that right now. I don’t think we’re accustomed to Hunter Renfroe’s arm yet. That is a very unique play to see a ball drop on the line like that and see a guy coming up firing like that. I don’t know how far up the line it was going to be to Hedgy (catcher Austin Hedges), but I thought it was going to be close enough to be an interesting play at the plate. … There’s some arm strength there.”

Hunter Pence doubled with two outs to bring in Nunez.

“I felt good. I felt like I did as well as I could have, honestly,” said Renfroe, San Diego’s first-round pick in the 2013 amateur draft. “I could have done a little better defensively, touching the ball; just missed that reach there. Positioning could have been better, I think. I could have caught it. Other than that, I’m happy with myself. “

Hunter Pence doubled with two outs to bring in Nunez.

The Mets and Giants took a half-game lead over the idle St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card race. New York beat Philadelphia 9-8 in 11 innings.

San Francisco came in trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by six games in the NL West, with 10 to play.

Padres pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson homered off Derek Law with one out in the eighth.

Samardzija (12-10) allowed four hits in seven scoreless innings, and walked none.

Sergio Romo pitched the ninth for his second save in as many chances. Ryan Schimpf doubled with one out before Renfroe popped up to first base and fellow rookie Carlos Asuaje grounded to short to end it.

Padres outfielders Renfroe and Manuel Margot, and second baseman Asuaje were making their first big league starts.

Renfroe, Margot, Asuaje and catcher Hedges were called up Wednesday from Triple-A El Paso, which won the Pacific Coast League title before losing to International League champion Scranton-Wilkes-Barre in the Triple-A showdown on Tuesday night in Memphis. Renfroe and Asuaje made their big league debuts as pinch-hitters on Wednesday night while Margot made his as a pinch-runner. Hedges made his big league debut last year.

Padres reliever Jose Torres made his big league debut when he started the ninth.


Giants: Manager Bruce Bochy said RHP Johnny Cueto, who was forced out of his start Tuesday night with a strained groin, is improving and will try to throw on Friday. … Bochy said SS Brandon Crawford’s dislocated pinky on his glove hand was doing “a lot better. Yesterday he had a tough day. It was really sore.” He’s throwing to keep in shape.

Padres: Manager Andy Green said RHP Colin Rea has begun throwing. He’s been shut down with an elbow injury.


Giants: Rookie RHP Albert Suarez (3-4, 4.16) is scheduled to start Friday night.

Padres: RHP Edwin Jackson (4-6, 6.00) gets the start Friday night.