Clayton Kershaw heard a voice call his name from halfway down the locker room.
"Clayton, check it out!" Mark Sweeney shouted, pointing to a television screen showing the 20-year-old left-hander being interviewed. "It's pretty cool!"
The reporters who were talking to Kershaw laughed. Kershaw smirked.
The voice of an elder had helped Kershaw pitch longer than he had in a major league game. He could take a little ribbing.
Kershaw pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in his career, his seven innings of three-run ball lifting the Dodgers to an 8-4 victory over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium that moved them to within 1 1/2 games of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In what could turn out to be a roundabout way of repaying the last-place Padres for essentially handing them Greg Maddux in a waiver deal last month, the Dodgers (69-70) have helped them move into a position in which they could be able to land a top pitching prospect of their own.
The Padres, at 53-85, are only a half-game behind the Washington Nationals (53-86)in the race for the No. 1 overall pick of a 2009 draft that will include Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State, a member of the U.S. Olympic team armed with a 100-mph fastball.
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre was visibly pleased with the progress of Kershaw, the gem of the Dodgers' farm system, who struck out six and had a shutout through six innings.
"That was about as smooth as he's been," Torre said.
Kershaw, who was recalled from a weekend vacation with triple-A Las Vegas, said the difference on this night was a pregame chat he had with Derek Lowe.
Lowe noticed that Kershaw had a tendency of letting his front leg fly open and suggested that he point his right hip more toward the plate.
"It was a big help," Kershaw said. "It was a big tip for me."
Kershaw (3-5) gave up a run in the seventh inning and left after walking consecutive hitters to start the eighth. The two runners scored.
The Padres never had a chance on this night, as Manny Ramirez put them in an immediate 3-0 hole by driving in three runs in the first three innings, the first two on a home run to left field in the first inning.
Ramirez's 30th home run -- and 10th as a Dodger -- was the first of three for the home team, which also got solo home runs from Blake DeWitt and Andre Ethier.
Ethier tripled in the third inning and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ramirez.
DeWitt's home run to lead off the fourth inning started a four-run surge for the Dodgers that knocked out starter Cha Seung Baek (4-9).
The Dodgers drew two walks and collected three hits in the inning, the last of them a run-scoring single by Russell Martin that put the Dodgers ahead, 7-0.
Baek (4-9) had a nightmare in his first career start against the Dodgers, as he was charged with seven runs and eight hits over 3 2/3 innings.
Ethier, who was three for four with four runs, hit his team-leading 19th home run to start the sixth inning.
The only disconcerting development of the night concerned outfielder Juan Pierre, who stumbled awkwardly out of the batter's box on a seventh-inning groundout and hobbled down the first base line. Pierre was immediately removed from the game, which marked only his seventh start in the last 31 games.
Pierre experienced sudden tightness in his back, Torre said.