SAN DIEGO — Beat L.A.!
Those are the favorite words of San Diego fans, and this could be the favorite week for San Diego fans. For the first time, the Padres can beat L.A. six times in one week, with three games against the Dodgers followed by three against the Angels.
So far, so good. Adrian Gonzalez doubled home the winning run in the eighth inning and Trevor Hoffman tamed the Dodgers in the ninth, carrying the Padres to a 5-3 victory at Petco Park on Wednesday. The Padres have won the first two games of this series, delighting their anti-L.A. crowds and helping to clog the National League West standings in the process.
Call it parity or call it mediocrity, but two games separate top from bottom in the division. The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, both 35-30, are tied for first. The Padres are 34-31, followed by the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants at 33-32.
The Dodgers could be better, with a better bullpen. With Eric Gagne out indefinitely and Yhency Brazoban out for the season, they are trying to make do with three rookies, two failed starters, Joe Beimel and Danys Baez.
On this night, the relievers failed again.
In the eighth inning, the Dodgers asked rookie Hong-Chih Kuo to preserve a 3-3 tie. He got one out before the tie was gone.
Kuo (0-4) threw six consecutive balls to start the inning. He walked Brian Giles on four pitches and struck out Rob Bowen, but Gonzalez doubled home Giles with the go-ahead run.
"Today was just a bad day," Kuo said. "I don't think it's a big problem."
Baez replaced Kuo, and Josh Bard singled home Gonzalez with an insurance run. The Dodgers' starters are 25-15 this season, the relievers 10-15.
Hoffman, meanwhile, just keeps rolling along. He earned his 15th save this season and 451st of his career, 27 behind all-time leader Lee Smith.
The Dodgers dispatched Kuo to the minor leagues April 30 and recalled him June 4. He has pitched 18 innings this season and walked 16, so there was some angst but little surprise at his outing.
"His whole story was dictated by the first six balls he threw," Manager Grady Little said. "The kid's got a good arm. His delivery is much better than when we sent him down. He's going to be a good one. He's in the learning process."
After rookie Mike Thompson stopped the Dodgers on three hits over seven innings, the Padres handed a 3-2 lead to setup man Scott Linebrink. The lead lasted one pitch.
The second pitch landed far, far away. Rookie Matt Kemp hit the first pinch-hit home run of his career, a stunning 433-foot blast deep beyond the center-field fence, and a second fence behind it. In the three-year history of Petco Park, only four homers have traveled farther.
And he got the ball back, for his father, just in time for Father's Day.
For Kemp, who joined the Dodgers on May 28, the home run was his seventh. He has played 15 games, yet the only Dodger with more home runs is J.D. Drew, who has nine.
"I don't know if you could expect so much from a normal human being," Little said. "The kid has been amazing since he's been up here."
The Dodgers scored twice in the second, on a two-run home run by Willy Aybar. The Padres scored three times in the second, on a two-run home run by Mark Bellhorn and a two-out single by Dave Roberts.
Dodgers starter Brad Penny pitched six innings, giving up three runs and five hits. He gave up his first home run since April 14, a span covering 63 innings.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times