This is beginning to have a familiar ring to it, much to the Dodgers' delight.
Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw again settled down after a wobbly first inning to pitch well despite command problems, and well enough to win, with the 22-year-old left-hander almost as dominant against the San Diego Padres as in his start a week earlier.
Kershaw gave up only one earned run and three hits in seven innings, James Loney hit his fourth home run and the surging Dodgers defeated the Padres, 4-1, in front of a sellout 42,436 at Petco Park for their sixth win in a row.
After a dreary start in April, the Dodgers have won eight of their last nine games, and their latest victory lifted them to within three games of division-leading San Diego.
And the Dodgers did so without Andre Ethier because the National League's leading hitter suffered a small fracture in his right pinkie during batting practice. He'll sit out Sunday's game and be evaluated in Los Angeles, Manager Joe Torre said.
Veteran Garret Anderson replaced Ethier in right field and delivered a key triple in the sixth inning to drive in Loney, who had walked, and chase starter Kevin Correia. It was the first start for Correia since his younger brother died in a hiking accident a week ago.
Kershaw said "to be honest, my command really wasn't that great tonight, I guess you'd call it effectively wild.
"I really didn't hit a whole lot of spots tonight, just kind of had to battle through it. I just tried to make the best of it. I really kind of just had a fastball tonight. I'm glad we got the win. "
Last Sunday, Kershaw (3-2) overcame a shaky start to shut out Colorado on two hits through eight innings and beat Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez at Dodger Stadium.
Against San Diego, Kershaw gave up a leadoff single to Scott Hairston and a walk to David Eckstein, with Hairston later scoring on a fielder's choice. Then he blanked San Diego for the next six innings — while striking out seven and walking two — to collect his first win at Petco Park in three starts.
"It wasn't a sensational game, he was just very business-like out there," Torre said of Kershaw. "He keeps it together, he doesn't unravel. For a kid his age, it's pretty remarkable."
After San Diego scored in the first inning, Loney got the Dodgers even in the second inning when he hit his home run against Correia (4-3), drawing a roar from the large contingent of Dodgers fans at the ballpark.
The Dodgers took a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning when Casey Blake walked, took second on an errant throw to first base from Correia and scored on Jamey Carroll's single. After Kershaw moved Caroll to second base with a sacrifice bunt, Carroll scored on Russell Martin's single.
The Dodgers' Chad Billingsley starts Sunday against the Padres in the final game of the three-game series, and the teams play again Wednesday and Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
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