In this most contentious and difficult Dodgers season, finishing with a break-even record or in second place in the National League West would be considered an achievement.
The Dodgers took another step in that direction Wednesday afternoon by defeating the San Diego Padres, 4-2, for their eighth win in nine games. The Padres have lost seven straight.
The Dodgers' record improved to 65-70, the first time the team has been within five games of the .500 mark since June 12.
The three-game sweep of last-place San Diego was the Dodgers' second in their last three series. The Dodgers remained six games behind the second-place San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
Rod Barajas led the Dodgers' offense with a two-run home run down the left-field line in the second inning.
"We're playing the way that we've been capable of," said Dodgers starter Ted Lilly (9-13), who struggled in his 5 2/3 innings of work but still earned the win.
Not that there were many at Dodger Stadium to see it.
The announced paid attendance in the 56,000-seat venue was 27,767, the second-lowest this season, but the actual number of spectators who came through the turnstiles was substantially less.
The Dodgers scored in the first inning against Padres starter Wade LeBlanc (2-4) on consecutive singles by Justin Sellers, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Matt Kemp.
LeBlanc helped his cause in the second inning when his single brought home Aaron Cunningham to tie the score. But in the same inning, the Dodgers' James Loney walked and Barajas hit his 15th home run of the season on a 3-1 pitch.
"I laid off the changeup, laid off the slider. I was just hoping he'd make a mistake and throw something in where I could hit it," Barajas said of LeBlanc. "He did exactly that; it was a fastball that he wanted away [but] ended up inside."
The Dodgers added a run in the fourth inning when Loney singled home Casey Blake, who had hit a ground-rule double.
Barajas' catching also was praised by Lilly, who said, "I definitely had a tough time" and struggled to throw his fastball and slider for strikes.
"Today was one of those days where Rod did the best with what he had as far as working with me," Lilly said. "It makes it tough on what fingers to put down."
Relievers Josh Lindblom, Scott Elbert and Mike MacDougal held the Padres scoreless for the next 2 1/3 innings after Lilly left, and Javy Guerra pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 13th save — his second in less than 24 hours.
Lindblom put to work
Lindblom was promoted from double-A Chattanooga and immediately put to work after reliever Matt Guerrier went on paternity leave.
After taking a flight early Wednesday morning from Mobile, Ala., where Chattanooga was playing, to Los Angeles, Lindblom replaced Lilly and struck out Cunningham to end the sixth inning.
Lindblom then opened the seventh inning by retiring Rob Johnson but walked pinch-hitter Andy Parrino and was replaced by Elbert.
"I was ready to go," Lindblom said. "But my command wasn't where I wanted it to be. [I] got past it and Mac[Dougal] and Elbert bailed me out. It's always fun to compete and get back right in here with these guys."
Andre Ethier, who hit a grand slam Tuesday night despite a sore right knee, did not start Wednesday but singled as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, his seventh hit in his last nine at-bats. It was "a day I would give him a lot of times" after a night game and "really nothing out of the ordinary," Manager Don Mattingly said. . . . Rookie shortstop Dee Gordon, about to come off the disabled list, left with the team on its 11-day trip that starts with a makeup game in Pittsburgh on Thursday and then series in Atlanta, Washington and San Francisco. . . . The Dodgers said left-handed pitcher Dana Eveland would be called up from triple-A Albuquerque to start Thursday's game against the Pirates.