But on Tuesday, after his third consecutive quality start led to a 7-3 Dodgers win over the Marlins, Padilla admitted the pitcher he was in April was not the pitcher he is now. His arm was bothering him then.
"I could throw it as hard as I could and I didn't have the control that I have now," Padilla said. "So yes, it probably affected my game. I don't want to make any excuses. With the condition I had before, you're able to win games. Whatever condition you're in, you're supposed to win games."
The Marlins made things a little tighter at the end than the Dodgers, who led 6-0 at one point, would've hoped, and manager Joe Torre turned to Jonathan Broxton for the final two outs in a save situation. But it was almost all positive against Marlins starter Chris Volstad, whose three-plus-inning, five-run outing paralleled John Ely's start against Florida from the night before. Volstad was optioned to the Minors after the game.
"It's a great lift after losing the game yesterday," Torre said.
Coming off the 100th victory of his career, Padilla threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed six hits. He didn't allow a run until his 112th and final pitch of the night, a hanging breaking ball that Marlins rookie outfielder Mike Stanton pulled into the left-field corner for a low-flying, two-run homer.
Padilla struck out nine, a season high, and walked none, the second time this season he didn't allow a free pass.
"All I know is from what we had last year, this guy knows how to pitch," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "It's like how he pitched in San Francisco, he hardly threw any breaking balls the last four innings. This guy can pitch with his fastball because he can make it sink, he can run it back to lefties, he can ride it up. He's got excellent command."
It's not just the fastball, though. It's the slow, looping curveball -- the Eephus or Pascual pitch, if you will -- which Padilla threw back-to-back times to Chris Coghlan with two out and none on in the third inning. Coghlan grounded out to first base.
"I had it, but I didn't throw it as much as I am pitching right now," Padilla said. "I have better control of that curveball right now than I did before ... when I was in Texas, I threw two in a row, and on the second pitch, they hit a double off me."
The only extra-base hit Padilla allowed was Stanton's home run. That shot didn't ring out like Kemp's, whose two-run homer with two out in the bottom of the second landed more than halfway up the bleachers in left field, his 16th of the season.
"I'm just trying to get my swing going," Kemp said. "I was looking for a pitch I could get inside and get a good swing on. He left it up a little bit and I got good wood on it."
One batter before Kemp, Rafael Furcal extended his hit streak to 10 games with a two-run single that started the four-run inning. When Furcal scored on the home run, he became the first Dodgers player since Gil Hodges in 1953 to score in 12 consecutive games. Earlier in the day, Furcal was named the Player of the Week.
Furcal credits his .512 average last week to an added leg kick he's worked on since the spring, and said he isn't worried about the All-Star break slowing him down.
"The problem is I want to stay like that all year," Furcal said. "Right now, I'm feeling so good, especially when you win the game ... I'm seeing the ball pretty good right now. I can see everything right now, breaking balls, anything I see."
Kemp and Furcal both finished 2-for-5. Blake hit his ninth homer of the season in third inning, a solo shot for a 5-0 lead, and Ethier hit his 14th in the fifth inning off reliever Alejandro Sanabia for a 6-0 lead. Ethier nearly homered again in his last at-bat.
It wasn't only power, but speed. The Dodgers stole five bases: two by both Kemp and Blake DeWitt and one for Furcal. Kemp and Furcal are tied for the club lead with 13 steals. Kemp has three stolen bases in the last two nights after having been caught 10 times in his first 20 attempts. He said that percentage never deterred him.
"Everybody's making their contribution," Torre said. "DeWitt, a couple stolen bases. The home runs were certainly huge for us, and we get off on the right foot."
Travis Schlicting, who pitched a scoreless eighth before letting up a run in the ninth inning and giving way to Broxton, said he wasn't worried about potentially being optioned on Wednesday when Carlos Monasterios is to return from the disabled list.
"I was trying to be a little too fine that last inning, trying to be a little too perfect," Schlichting said. "All I can do is come out here and pitch the way I'm capable of throwing and let everything else work out. It was just one of those nights."