Admit It … 12-3 Ain't So Bad

<b>SAN DIEGO, California</b>--On the verge of setting a new early season record, the Dodgers finally were unable to work their late-innings magic and dropped a 6-1 decision to the Padres in front of a sellout crowd of 42,326 in San Diego, ending their eight-game winning streak and dropping their record to 12-3, a mark any Dodger manager would take any season.

Los Angeles again exercised patience, working deep in the count, and forced the opposing starter out of the game early but a strong bullpen effort negated their efforts and held on for the win.

The Padres led 2-0 lead going into the fifth inning but a one-out smash toward scooted under Jose Valentin's glove at third base and Erickson issued a four-pitch walk. A double up the gap in right-center made it 3-0 and the score moved to 5-0 with a looping single to right field that ended Erickson's evening.

Padres relievers, including former Dodger Rudy Seanez, shut them out on one hit the rest of the way. Another ex-Dodger, Dave Roberts, had a pair of hits, a stolen base, knocked in one run and scored another.

The Dodger highlight reel was provided by center fielder Milton Bradley who ended the seventh inning by cutting down a runner at home trying to score from second on a single. Bradley then ended the eighth by throwing out another runner trying to go first to third.

The Dodgers maintained their 4 1/2-game lead in the division after San Francisco beat Arizona in 13 innings. The Diamondbacks and Padres are tied for second place, with the Giants a half-game behind them.

Dodger Blue Notes--Righthander Brad Penny is scheduled to make his return from eight months of arm injuries in time to start on Sunday at Colorado, has returned just in time because Elmer Dessens, who left his start in Milwaukee after three innings because of spasms in the back of his right shoulder, may be headed for the 15-day disabled list after all. Dessens, who reported feeling much better Wednesday, tried to play catch yesterday, only to experience the same discomfort in the same spot. He immediately was sent back to Los Angeles, where he will meet today with Dr. Frank Jobe. Even if he doesn't go on the DL, Dessens won't be available by Sunday. That means if it is too cold in Denver on for Penny to pitch, D.J. Houlton will draw the spot start. … While Dessens would be the seventh disabled Dodger this season, Ricky Ledee may be the eighth. Ledee was limited for the second game in a row because of soreness in his right oblique, an injury he aggravated with a game-tying slide into home plate in the ninth inning of Tuesday's game at Milwaukee. … J.D. Drew, who hit a game-tying, solo homer in the eighth inning on Wednesday, entered Thursday batting .458 (11-for-27) since breaking out of an 0-for-25 slide to begin the season. Drew had raised his average to .224, with an on-base percentage of .361 that was largely the product of his 11 walks. … Valentin was ejected for arguing from the dugout after the plate umpire called him out on strikes, although the bad feelings date back at least to Wednesday night, when the same umpire was involved in several questionable calls at first base that went against the Dodgers. … The Dodger offense stranded eight and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. … Antonio Perez, who is on the DL with a strained hamstring, took ground balls and continues to run straight ahead. He's eligible to be activated on Sunday. And Closer Eric Gagne played catch for the third consecutive day on Thursday, cranking it up 86 times at 75 percent effort and mixing in some changeups over a 12-minute workout. … Jason Phillips has thrown out only two of 13 runners attempting to steal this season.