LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The Dodgers trailed early again and Roberto Hernandez fell behind in pitching counts, too.
Neither the NL West leaders nor Hernandez could do much about it in a 4-1 loss to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night.
"We keep trying to move in the right direction," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "Just kind of plodding along trying to win series."
Hernandez (7-9) gave up four runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out two and walked two in his 200th career start and first as a home pitcher at Dodger Stadium. He was acquired from Philadelphia earlier this month.
"I didn't feel it was my best," he said through a translator. "I got behind in the count. I just wasn't able to get in a rhythm. I was getting outside of the zone a little bit."
The Dodgers closed to 3-1 in the third on Matt Kemp's sacrifice fly, scoring Yasiel Puig who singled.
Alexi Amarista had two hits and drove in a run, and Eric Stults was good enough against the team he pitched for from 2006-09.
Stults (6-13) allowed one run on four hits in five innings, struck out five and walked one.
"He's a guy to play with the edges and change speeds. You've got to be able to stay with him," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's going to be kind of a kitchen sink guy."
Kevin Quackenbush pitched the ninth to earn his first major league save. He started a 1-2-3 putout to end the game.
Rymer Liriano went 2 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored, and Seth Smith went 2 for 5 for the Padres, who pounded out 11 hits in ending a two-game skid overall and a three-game losing streak to the Dodgers.
Just like a night earlier, the Padres took an early 3-0 lead only this time it held up. In the second, Amarista singled in their first run. Stults followed with an RBI single, and Liriano scored on a throwing error by left fielder Scott Van Slyke, who twice bobbled the ball trying to control it.
Yangervis Solarte made it 4-1 with a sacrifice fly in the fourth that scored Liriano.
Amarista walked, stole second and was safe at third on a throwing error by catcher A.J. Ellis, but he failed to extend the lead when pinch-hitter Will Venable flied out to left to end the eighth.
Dee Gordon stole his 57th base in the eighth, moving into sole possession of seventh on the Dodgers' single-season steals list, passing Steve Sax who had 56 in 1983.
Padres: Closer Joaquin Benoit has been bothered by shoulder problems, and Black said it makes sense to consider putting him on the DL. "We still have another day or two to assess this and see if Joaquin responds to treatment," he said. "If we can hold off on that, then we win."
Dodgers: Pitcher Zack Greinke has experienced elbow discomfort similar to what he had last season. A MRI didn't show any damage, but the team wants to be cautious. "It's something that comes and goes," Greinke said. "I expect to pitch at a hundred per cent level, but I don't expect to feel a hundred per cent."
Padres: Tyson Ross (11-11, 2.70 ERA) takes the mound in the series finale. The right-hander has 13 starts of six or more innings pitched while allowing one run or fewer earned runs, tied for the most such starts with Adam Wainwright of St. Louis.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw (14-3, 1.86) starts in place of Greinke, who will be pushed back to Saturday against the Mets, with Dan Haren going on Friday.
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