Padilla Punctures Giants Pennant Hopes

One might envision Dodgers GM Ned Colletti calling the Texas Rangers on a daily basis, asking if they had any more disgruntled pitchers available after Vincente Padilla, who was released by the Rangers under a cloud of discontent, held San Francisco to three hits and an unearned run while winning his third game without a loss in a 9-1 decision.

Padilla (3-0) struck out five and didn't allow an earned run to remain unbeaten as first-place Los Angeles moved three games ahead of Colorado, which lost in San Diego on a walk-off walk in the 10th. The Giants remained 5 1/2 games behind the Rockies in the wild-card race and are now 8 1/2 behind the suddenly surging Dodgers with 20 to play.

Manager Joe Torre repeated his mantra: "If we win games, nothing can happen to us."

Los Angeles (85-58) matched their season best by moving 27 games above .500 for the third time this year and topped their 2008 win total on the same night.

Along with the Padilla-led pitching crew, the Dodgers banged out 10 hits, five of them for extra bases, including a three run home run by Russell Martin in the third and James Loney's 12th in the ninth. Manny Ramirez added a triple and scored on a wild pitch, while Matt Kemp and Rafael Furcal chipped in with an RBU-double.

The Giants lost their fourth straight and for the fifth time in six games and seventh in the last 11, not the best situation to be in entering a stretch when they play four more with Los Angeles and three with Colorado. Since tying the Rockies in the wild card race, their fortunes seem to are being handled by Bernie Madoff.

On the other side of the field the Dodgers have won six of seven road games and eight of 10. And no one is happier that Vincente Padilla.

"It's fun being here," Padilla said. "I'm very happy. The boys welcomed me and it gives me more confidence. It's very simple: I just have to pitch."

Padilla, 3-0 since being picked practically free, allowed one unearned run on three hits over six innings and lowered his ERA to 2.01 since being acquired for the stretch run.

"We kind of caught lightning in a bottle with him," Martin said.

Before this series began, Torre called for more from Furcal, Ramirez and Martin. Against the Giants, they've produced. Los Angeles outscored San Francisco 19-4 in the first two games.

Facing Jonathan Sanchez, who has held opponents to a .164 average over his most recent games, Los Angeles handed him his 12th loss. He was KO'ed after only 4. innings and 92 pitches.

While the Dodgers have won four of the last five against San Francisco and are 5-3 at the Giants' ballpark, Orlando Hudson offered a voice of caution: "We've still got 2 1/2 weeks left and we play the Giants four more times." Anything can happen."

An those of you who have followed the Dodgers over the years, anything will probably happened.

For example, with the bases loaded in the second inning, Padilla laced a single to left field. Then the scene turned back to 1926 when Babe Herman doubled into a double play.

Matt Kemp had lived on an error to open the winning and stole second (#). Casey Blake singled and Russell Martin walked. With two out, Padilla fought off a number of pitches before whacking the ball into left field to score Kemp. It seemed as if Blake would score also, but then came the time warp.

Blake got half-way home, then thought better of it and retreated to third base, the move coming as quite a surprise to Martin who was over half-way to third when he noticed. Blake was tossed out at the plate to end the inning and engaged in a serious talk with third base coach Larry Bowa about the whole thing.

You can take the Dodgers out of Brooklyn but you can't take the Brooklyn out of the Dodgers, God bless 'em.

Padilla gave the run back in the third when he issued a leadoff walk and with one out, fumbled a sacrifice bunt, then throwing it down the right field line. The error tied the score and put the lead runner at second but he struck out Eugenio Velez and got Edgar Renteria on a groundout to avoid further trouble.

"That's important to have when you do get in trouble," said Torre. "A lot of pitchers can pitch with a lead, but to be able to wiggle off the hook is valuable."

In the top of the fourth, Blake walked and Loney grounded a single to left. Martin then hit a towering shot down the left field line that was certainly out of the park but might drift foul. It skimmed inside the four pole and landed deep in the seats, giving Los Angeles a 4-1 lead.

Kemp doubled in Juan Pierre, playing in place of Andre Ethier, in the fifth. Furcal doubled home Martin in the sixth, Ramirez tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the seventh and Loney put a cherry on the cake in the ninth with a homer that scored Blake.

Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario and James McDonald allowed one hit between them over the final five innings and struck out four.

The awakened Dodgers offense has scored five or more runs in five of the last seven games and has eight home runs in five games on the trip. Loney and Martin, the six and seven hitters, combined for five RBIs and four runs scored.

Loney is apparently a road warrior, collecting all 12 of his home runs away from home. After hitting only three in his first 68 games, he's hit three in his last five games. He is 4-for-8 with five RBIs in this series.

"I'm not trying to hit home runs, I'm trying to drive the ball," Loney said. "I've gone back to my old self and I'm sticking with what's comfortable for me and what feels right."

In the final game of the series, former Dodger Brad Penny, who became a free agent, signed with Boston, asked for his release and landed in San Francisco, will take the ball for the Giants. He just Penny smiles when asked if he's fired up about facing his former team.

Penny has already made two winning starts for the Giants and has a 1.20 ERA since leaving the Red Sox.

The Dodgers send RHP Chad Billingsley (12-9, 3.93 ERA) to the mound hoping he will find his old rhythm. He hasn't won since Aug. 18 or pitched longer than six innings since July 5.

 Score by Innings
Los Angeles	010 311 102-9
San Francisco	001 000 000-1

 Dodgers	 ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	 5  0  1  1  .257
 Castro ph-ss	 1  0  0  0  .293
Pierre cf-lf	 4  1  0  0  .314
Ramirez lf	 4  1  2  0  .307
 Kuo p        	 0  0  0  0  .000
 Mientkiewicz ph 0  0  0  0  .000
 Belisario p	 0  0  0  0  .000
Belliard 3b	 0  0  0  0  .256
Kemp rf-cf	 5  1  1  1  .256
Blake 3b	 3  2  2  0  .278
 Mcdonald p	 0  0  0  0  .000
Loney 1b	 4  2  2  2  .283
Martin c	 3  2  1  3  .258
Hudson 2b	 4  0  0  0  .287
Padilla p	 3  0  1  1  .200
 Ethier rf	 1  0  0  0  .282
 Totals	        37  9 10  8
 San Francisco 	30  1  4  0

 Error- Padilla (2). 2B- Kemp (24),
Furcal (24). 3B- Ramirez (2). HR- Martin
(5), Loney (12). RBI- Padilla (2),
Martin 3 (46), Kemp (91),Furcal (39),
Loney 2 (85). LOB- Los Angeles 10, 
San Francisco 6. SB- Pierre (26),Kemp (32),
DP- Furcal and Loney.  
 Dodgers	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Padilla (11-6)	6.0  3  1-0  3  5  4.42
Kuo        	1.0  1  0-0  0  1  2.66
Belisario 	1.0  0  0-0  0  1  20.00
McDonald	1.0  0  0-0  0  2  4.07
 HBP- Mientkiewicz. T- 3:09. Att- 421,70.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Padilla hadn't faced the Giants since Aug. 23, 2005, while with the Phillies. ...Injured Los Angeles LHPs Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf are both throwing but not yet off a mound. Kershaw is nursing a bruised right shoulder after running into the outfield wall while shagging fly balls during batting practice a week ago. Wolf was scheduled to start Friday night vs. the Giants but has elbow irritation that required a cortisone shot. ...Casey Blake was 2-for-3 with two walks and is 4-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs in the series. ...The Dodgers were 5-for-15 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. ...The Dodgers are one of only five teams in the Majors with three players with 80 or more RBI, joining the Red Sox, Marlins, Angels, and Phillies.  The Dodgers boast in their troika Andre Ethier (94), Matt Kemp (91), and James Loney (85). ...Following todays game the Dodgers come home for three against Pittsburgh and three more with the Giants with an off day Thursday. ...The Dodgers are off to their best 143-game start since 1978, when it was 85-58. The have won 18 of their 23 road series overall, going 16-5-2.  They are already 42-29 on the road in 2009 after going just 36-45 last year.  The 42 road wins are their most in a season since 2004, when they went 44-37 away from Dodger Stadium.