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Padres lose 5th straight, 4-1 to Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp catches a fly from San Diego Padres' Chris Denorfia for the out during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 10, 2011, in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp catches a fly from San Diego Padres' Chris Denorfia for the out during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 10, 2011, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
July 10, 2011

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LOS ANGELES—The San Diego Padres have stumbled into the All-Star break with a five-game losing streak that landed them in the NL West cellar.

What a change from a year ago.

Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers dropped the Padres' record to 40-52. Last season at the break, they were 51-37 with a two-game lead in the division.

They built that lead to 6 1/2 but folded down the stretch and finished two games behind the eventual World Series champion Giants after losing to them on the final day of the season. They also were edged out by Atlanta for the wild card.

"Every year is different, and you never know how it's going to play out," manager Bud Black said. "Last year was a great year for the 2010 Padres. This is a different group of players, especially on the position-player side. We didn't start out the season the way we'd hoped.

"Every team hopes to get out of the gate fast, and that was a big part of our success last year," he added. "This year we got out slow and we just weren't able to gain any momentum or traction. We just didn't swung the bats the way we can, and we have to do a better job as a group after the All-Star break."

The skid began with a 14-inning, 6-4 loss to the Giants, and included back-to-back 1-0 losses to the Dodgers. The Padres have scored just two runs over their last four games -- a home run by Ryan Ludwick against Barry Zito on Thursday at San Francisco, and a homer by Rob Johnson on Sunday against Ted Lilly.

"It's not the first half we expected or hoped to have, but you've just got to grind through it sometimes," Johnson said. "It's unfortunate, because we were playing pretty well there for 10 or 12 games in a row."

Andre Ethier homered twice for the Dodgers before heading off to his second straight All-Star game, and Lilly (6-9) won for the first time in a month after losing his previous four starts. The 35-year-old left-hander allowed a run and four hits over five innings, improving his career record against the Padres to 8-3 with a 2.96 ERA -- including a 3-2 win on April 29 at Los Angeles.

"Not to take anything away from them, because they did throw the ball great. But to score one run in three games, there's probably some offensive deficiencies as well," third baseman Chase Headley said.

Rookie right-hander Javy Guerra, the sixth Dodgers pitcher, worked a perfect ninth for his fourth save. Guerra has emerged as the Dodgers' closer because of season-ending injuries to Jonathan Broxton and Vicente Padilla.

Guerra, who escaped his own bases-loaded, no-out jam to preserve a 1-0 victory for Chad Billingsley in the series opener on Friday, made it interesting again when he gave up a leadoff single to Orlando Hudson and a walk to Anthony Rizzo before retiring the last three batters.

"In a way, it's been great to watch because you're watching a young pitcher develop into a closer. And part of that is having to pitch out of those situations," Lilly said.

Tim Stauffer (5-6) was charged with three runs -- two earned -- and just three hits in six innings while keeping his ERA at 2.97. The right-hander, who won his previous three starts, is the fourth Padres starter since 2000 to go into the All-Star break with an ERA under 3.00 -- joining Chris Young (2.00 in 2007), Jake Peavy (2.43 in 2004) and Mat Latos (2.45 in 2010).

Stauffer's biggest problem Sunday was his control. He walked his first three batters in the third, and two of them scored.

"It was really uncharacteristic of Stauff. We haven't seen that," Black said. "Hopefully, Tim will go on to make 33-34 starts and that will be an aberration. On the positive side, he went six innings and gave up three runs on a day when he was not on the top of his game."

After the third walk, Stauffer went 3-2 on cleanup hitter Matt Kemp, who was robbed of a hit by Headley on a diving stop going toward the third base line.

Not knowing how far Rafael Furcal was from the bag, Headley ignored the easy force at third and made an errant throw to the plate that allowed Tony Gwynn Jr. and Furcal to score. Kemp was credited with a fielder's choice and RBI.

"I was just trying to make a play," Headley said. "I mean, you've got three really good baserunners -- and four if you include Kemp. I went toward the line for it and I didn't know if I had time to get back to third. I just wish I could have made a better throw. But I don't question what I tried to do. I thought I had a chance to throw him out there."

Ethier made it 3-1 in the fifth inning with a two-out homer to right-center -- ending a drought of 61 at-bats since his previous one on June 21.

The home run snapped a 10-game drought for the Dodgers since June 28, when Aaron Miles ended a personal dry spell of 568 consecutive plate appearances without one. Ethier capped off his 11th career multihomer game with another solo shot into the pavilion seats in right-center against Josh Spence in the eighth, his ninth of the season and first off a left-hander.

"I'm just glad to get a hit off a lefty. I don't care if it's going over the fence or not," Ethier said. "But it's nice that it helped win the game."

Notes: Padres SS Jason Bartlett was scratched from manager Bud Black's original lineup because of a sore right thumb. ... The Dodgers swept a three-game series at home for the first time since June 2010 against St. Louis.

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