Pat Murphy might have more of a desire to win than anyone else. It's always been that way.

However, the first-year Tucson Padres manager also understands winning is not the top priority of Triple-A baseball.

"Winning is important," Murphy said before Thursday night's 7-4 loss to New Orleans at Kino Stadium. "But not at the expense of player development and getting guys playing time."

Heading into the final stretch of the regular season, Tucson (60-59) is in third place in the Pacific Coast League's Pacific Southern Division, five games behind the first-place Sacramento River Cats.

In order to make the playoffs, the Padres, who had a three-game lead in the division at the All-Star break but have since lost 14 of 21, essentially have to play .600 ball with 25 games left.

In that stretch, Tucson will play five games in Sacramento and will play four against Oklahoma City, which had a 12-game winning streak snapped at Las Vegas on Thursday.

Murphy, however, isn't thinking about any of that. In fact he never has been; even when the Padres were in first place, it wasn't about winning, he said.

"I'm way happier when we win, that's just the nature of the beast," Murphy said. "You have to remind yourself that you're not going to always make decisions that foster winning that particular game in (minor-league ball).

"There's a bigger goal in mind than winning this game or that game or winning the Triple-A championship. But if it happens, sure, we're not going to try and prevent it from happening."

Even though winning is not the top priority for the Padres, the players and Murphy still enjoy it, of course, and would like to finish the season on a strong note.

Second baseman Dean Anna, who leads the league in doubles, also said that winning makes everything better in the dugout and in the clubhouse. He said the key to putting a run together is just focusing on one game at a time.

"That's the only way you can play," Anna said. "You can't think about tomorrow, you can't think about yesterday; you've got to think about today."

Relief pitcher Tommy Layne, who has been up and down to San Diego several times in the last two seasons, said winning is always his goal no matter what level he's at.

"If you win down here, you get called up because they expect you to win up there," Layne said. "Winning plays just as much a part as development, especially when you get to this level."

Tucson has had 20 starting pitchers this year and has a slew of changes among position players which is usual for Triple-A baseball, but Murphy still believes his team is plenty capable of putting together a run to the postseason.

"You work for an organization, and that organization's goals are set," Murphy said.

"Your job is to see that those goals are met, and if winning happens along the way, that makes it a lot more fun.

"But it's not the only goal."

¡Tus Padres!


• What: New Orleans at Padres

• When: 7:05 p.m.

• Radio: 1290-AM

New Orleans 7, Padres 4

• Highlight: First baseman Cody Decker and catcher Eddy Rodriguez hit back-to-back home runs to left field on the first two pitches in the bottom of the fifth inning. Rodriguez doubled to bring in Decker in the ninth, but the Padres couldn't get much other offense going after falling behind 7-0. Starting pitcher Jason Lane (2-1) lasted only five innings and gave up 11 hits including three home runs as he suffered his first loss since joining Tucson on July 23.

• Big number: 14. Although Lane gave up seven earned runs in his start, he also registered seven strikeouts. Brandon Kloess, Brad Boxberger and Tommy Layne combined for another seven in four innings of relief, giving Tucson 14 strikeouts in the game.

• Tonight's starters: New Orleans LHP Brad Hand (3-3, 2.53 ERA) vs. RHP Burch Smith (3-1, 3.12 ERA)

Daniel Gaona