SAN DIEGO -- Grady Little spoke about the Dodgers' 5-2 loss to the Padres Wednesday night with as much admiration as frustration. "They started one Hall of Famer and finished it with another," Little said after Greg Maddux got his 338th win and Trevor Hoffman his 500th save. "That's the way the game is supposed to be played. They outplayed us, outpitched us and outhit us and the results really showed." Those results left the Dodgers in third place, 1 1/2 games behind the Padres and Diamondbacks, as far out of first as they've been all year.
Jason Schmidt's impressive return Tuesday night was wasted and Randy Wolf struggled for the second consecutive start Wednesday night, leaving the Dodgers with the Herculean task of avoiding a series sweep Thursday night needing Hong-Chih Kuo (0-1) to beat Jake Peavy (7-1). Peavy is also 7-1 lifetime against the Dodgers, so for that to happen, the visitors will need to pick it up in a big way. They'll need more than the 1-for-8 they got from Juan Pierre and Rafael Furcal at the top of the batting order, prompting Little to concede he was "close" to shaking up the lineup. "I keep having confidence that they can get it going," he said, "but at the same time, we're not in position where we repeat things that constantly aren't working for us. We may have to do some juggling." They'll need to keep hitters such as Geoff Blum (.184 entering the game) from driving in four runs from the No. 8 spot in the order and former Dodger Hiram Bocachica (.091) from lacing a pair of doubles from the No. 7 spot. Those two were playing in place of the injured Khalil Greene and Brian Giles, but they drove in all five runs off Wolf, who has lasted only five innings in each of his last two starts and allowed nine earned runs. "I got behind guys and when I had to make a pitch, it got too much of the plate," said Wolf. "That's a recipe for disaster. I've already been looking at the video and seeing what I might have been doing to correct that. Usually when things like this happen, it's because my delivery is too fast, almost like I'm in a hurry, and I'm not giving my arm a chance to get in position to make a quality pitch." Wolf started the game with a pair of walks, his typical early-game struggles, but he never got on track. Bocachica and Blum were in the middle of all five runs in the second and third innings. "He was really off a lot," Little said of Wolf (7-4). "He's pitched some awfully good games for us, but tonight he wasn't good. He had command issues from the start and they stayed with him. He just had an off night." Even when the Dodgers did something right in this game, they did something wrong. That was critically apparent in the top of the fifth inning. It started with an infield single from Jeff Kent, who later homered and finished with three hits. Luis Gonzalez singled Kent to third and he scored on Russell Martin's sacrifice fly. Andre Ethier lined out to third and third baseman Tony Abreu followed with a play that demonstrated the highs and lows of starting a rookie. He rocketed a Maddux offering into the left-field corner and the ball took an odd carom away from former Dodgers left fielder Jose Cruz Jr. With the play behind him and running with two out, Gonzalez headed for home. With the play in front of him, Abreu tried to stretch a double into a triple. Cruz showed off his strong arm by gunning Abreu out at third for the final out of the inning -- an fundamental sin on its own -- and it became a compound crime when plate umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled that Gonzalez did not touch home plate before Abreu was erased. If Abreu stopped at second base, the Dodgers would have had another run in and Little said he would have pinch-hit Olmedo Saenz for Wolf, but never had the chance. "That comes with being a rookie," Little said of Abreu's baserunning. "He'll learn from his mistake." On the positive side, Kent slugged his first home run in almost two weeks and Nomar Garciaparra doubled off the fence in deep left-center against Hoffman in the ninth, barely missing his first home run in nearly two months. Brett Tomko took over for Wolf and struck out four in two innings.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.