SAN DIEGO -- For the second time this month, Dodgers manager Joe Torre used relief pitchers from first pitch to last, and he got away with it again. The Dodgers deployed six pitchers -- and a two-run homer from Matt Kemp -- to beat the first-place Padres on Friday night, 4-3, and run their win streak to five. On May 1, Carlos Monasterios came out of the bullpen for a spot-start and the Dodgers beat the Pirates, 5-1. Kemp's homer in the seventh inning off Luke Gregerson was his eighth home run, but first (and first multiple-RBI game) since April 21. Kemp's high fly glanced off the leaping center fielder Tony Gwynn's outstretched glove above the top of the fence. Gwynn slammed his fist into the wall padding in frustration.
"I saw his reaction, but I was making sure he didn't reach in and take it out of his glove," said Kemp. "I'd have gone crazy; I would have flipped. You'd have seen a side of me you haven't seen." Ramon Ortiz started the game for the Dodgers (his first Major League start in almost three years), Jeff Weaver was credited with the win, Hong-Chih Kuo with a crucial hold and Jonathan Broxton with his fifth save as the Dodgers climbed above the .500 mark for the first time this year. Before the game, Torre talked about the importance of beating the National League West leaders. "We've got to establish for ourselves, we have to find out who we are more for our own sake than theirs," he said. One thing Torre knows is that he doesn't have a complete starting rotation, with Opening Day starter Vicente Padilla and fifth starter Charlie Haeger on the disabled list. He's going mainly with four -- Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and now rookie John Ely -- but he slipped Ortiz in after the day off to give the others an extra day between starts. With Ortiz lasting only four-plus innings, Torre got a scoreless inning from George Sherrill, including a popup of Adrian Gonzalez, who had a solo homer off Ortiz in the first inning. That would have been a two-run shot, except catcher Russell Martin caught Tony Gwynn trying to steal second base just before the blast. There was a scoreless sixth inning from Weaver. Ronald Belisario got two outs in the seventh before allowing a single to David Eckstein, bringing up Gonzalez, and Torre countered lefty for lefty with Kuo, who fanned Gonzalez on a slider. For the first time this season, Torre brought back Kuo to start another inning, and he bridged a scoreless eighth (two of four outs by strikeout) to Broxton, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. "They've got good arms down there," said San Diego manager Bud Black. "Bellisario has nasty stuff. Kuo got Gonzo [Adrian Gonzalez] on a strikeout. And Broxton, you've got a guy with 22 strikeouts in 12 innings [23 in 13 2/3 innings], that's pretty good." All told, the five relievers that followed Ortiz pitched five scoreless innings on two hits without a walk or a runner reaching second base. "Ortiz gave us what we needed. He kept us in the game," said Torre. "Kuo was huge. I was hoping Belisario would get Eckstein so I wouldn't have to go to Kuo. We were able to pitch great out of the bullpen, and that was the difference tonight. The guys did a great job for us." It made up for repeated offensive frustrations against San Diego starter and former Dodgers teammate Jon Garland. The Dodgers loaded the bases in the second and third innings and scored only one run on Manny Ramirez's single in the third. The third inning ended with a Casey Blake double-play grounder, but that wasn't as puzzling as the way the second inning ended -- with Ortiz bunting into a 1-2-3 double-play. "I still don't understand that one," said Torre. Ortiz said he did it on his own. It will probably be the last time he does. "I tried to bunt the ball to the line, but it stayed to the pitcher," Ortiz said. "I did it by myself and nothing positive happened. But everything is good because the team wins." The Dodgers' runs off Garland scored on a Ramirez's bases-loaded single in the third and an Andre Ethier double in the fifth. The top three Dodgers in the lineup -- Russell Martin, Kemp and Ethier -- went 6-for-12.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.