"You'd like to take advantage of the fact they've lost 10 in a row. We couldn't," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "We couldn't get a lead to get them back on the heels."
Emergency starter Tim Stauffer went four innings and the Padres used seven pitchers to retain their grasp of first place. The Dodgers trail by nine games in the National League West and 9 1/2 in the Wild Card.
Of the few bright spots for the Dodgers: Rafael Furcal had his best game since returning from the disabled list with three hits and a stolen base, while leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik, after a 1-for-18 homestand, slugged his first home run as a Dodger on an 0-2 pitch in the seventh inning.
But for the most part, the offense continued to stall, going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranding nine.
"We had opportunities get away and there's not much more to add to that," said Torre. "Nine hits, some situations, but we didn't deliver. That's about it."
Opening Day starter Vicente Padilla (6-5) returned from the disabled list for the Dodgers but was done after allowing three runs in four innings, including a solo homer by No. 8 hitter Nick Hundley.
Padilla was making his first start since Aug. 15, when he allowed eight runs in 4 1/3 innings and then went on the disabled list with a bulging disk in his neck, which he said didn't bother him against San Diego.
"No problem," said Padilla. "I had my velocity, was throwing strikes. Just bad luck."
The Padres scored first, Hundley launching a home run leading off the bottom of the third inning. The Dodgers answered in the fourth. James Loney pulled a one-out double to right field and with two outs Andre Ethier singled him home.
With one out in the fourth, the Padres loaded the bases as Adrian Gonzalez defeated the defensive shift with a line single to left, Miguel Tejada fisted a single to right and Chase Headley was pitched around for a walk. Will Venable bounced into a forceout that broke the tie, Venable beating Padilla to the bag to avoid the double play.
At least that's the way first-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt saw it. Padilla didn't argue, but afterward said he disagreed.
"I think I arrived before the runner did," he said.
With the inning extended, Hundley followed with a super-ball bouncer high off the plate to Furcal, who had no play at any base as Tejada scored.
"I didn't care how we won. We needed to win," Headley said. "It's nice to see us get a couple of runs the way we hadn't been getting them. It's like, 'Hey, that can go our way.'"
Padilla was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth after making 59 pitches and striking out five.
"Padilla looked fine," said Torre. "I didn't think he was that far off. The first time in three weeks, he wasn't as sharp as he could have been. But overall, he had good stuff. The tip for me was throwing that Eephus ball (super-slow curve) for strikes. I thought he was fine."
The Dodgers had their best chance in the sixth inning after no-out singles by Casey Blake and Ethier, but Matt Kemp struck out and Ryan Webb got Ryan Theriot and Brad Ausmus to ground out.
Podsednik homered off Luke Gregerson with one out in the seventh. Furcal singled, with two out stole second and Blake walked, but Mike Adams struck out Ethier.
"I just wanted to keep the ball down. Everyone knows Ethier is a big-hit guy for them," Adams said. "The way things have been going for us ... it was important to get an out."
Jonathan Broxton took over for the Dodgers in the seventh and allowed a leadoff double to Aaron Cunningham, who took third on Chris Denorfia's groundout and scored on David Eckstein's sacrifice fly.
Despite allowing a run, Broxton's fastball was livelier than it's been lately, every pitch at 95 mph or higher, one reaching 99.
"He was a lot freer, his stuff was better," said Torre. "Ausmus said his ball was much better through the zone as far as velocity and movement."