Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, right, is forced out at second base… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
The thing about stretch runs is, you have to get going. Get the wheels moving, the wins tallying up.
The Dodgers came home, greeted September and went 3-4 on their homestand after Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Padres before an announced crowd of 50,560.
That’s hardly the way stretch drives are born, though with the Giants losing the Dodgers did not lose any ground in the National League West, and with the Cardinals losing they did not lose ground in the NL wild-card race.
Of course, neither did they gain ground, and the days to do that are dwindling. The Dodgers have only two more homestands left, and 24 games to their season.
After an off-day Thursday the Dodgers will start a key three-game trip in San Francisco, still trailing the Giants by 4½ games. They remain 1½ games back of the Cardinals, tied with the Pirates, for the second and final wild-card berth.
The Dodgers managed 10 hits Wednesday, but could never put a big rally together.
And the Dodgers seem to be making a bad habit of falling behind early. They did it again Wednesday, allowing the Padres to score three times in the first inning off right-hander Aaron Harang.
After Everth Cabrera led off with a single and Will Venable walked, Chase Headley – one of baseball’s hottest hitters since the All-Star break – doubled in Cabrera, which was only the beginning of the Dodgers’ bad news.
The relay from shortstop Hanley Ramirez went wide of the plate and ricocheted past catcher A.J. Ellis for an error to allow Venable to score and Headley to take third. A little tapper by Yasmani Grandal was scooped up by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, but he threw oddly, bouncing the ball past a covering Harang. It was ruled a hit, as Headley scored to give San Diego the early 3-0 lead.
The Dodgers managed single runs in the second, third and fifth innings to tie it.
In the second, the Dodgers led off with three consecutive singles off Clayton Richard that included a run-scoring single by Luis Cruz as he extended his hitting streak to 11-games. That, however, was the end of the rally. Ellis flied out and Harang, attempting to sacrifice the runners up, bunted into a double play.
The Dodgers added one more in the third when they again led off with three consecutive singles, this time a hit by Gonzalez driving in the run. Yet once again, they failed to turn the rally into a big inning. Matt Kemp hit into a fielder’s choice, Andre Ethier popped up and Cruz fouled out.
Still, the Dodgers did manage to tie it in the fifth, a one-out single by Ramirez scoring Shane Victorino, who had singled for the third time.
It remained a 3-3 game until after reliever Shawn Tolleson walked Will Venable to lead off the top of the seventh. Venable stole second and the hot-hitting Headley singled to send him to third.
From there it took only a sacrifice fly from Carlos Quentin to score Venable with the winning run.
Harang went five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and three walks. He struck out one.
The Dodgers thought they had taken the lead in the bottom of the seventh when, with a man on base, Kemp unleashed a rocket to almost dead center. But Cameron Maybin made a leaping, smooth catch at the wall, likely depriving him of a home run.