Matt Kemp is hit by a pitch in the sixth inning against the Padres. (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated…)
SAN DIEGO — In the days Adrian Gonzalez called Petco Park his home, he often played on teams that couldn't score.
When Gonzalez returned here for the first time in almost two years Tuesday night, his team still couldn't score.
Only now he was a visitor, on a big-market team with a significantly larger payroll.
Gonzalez had two hits in his San Diego homecoming, but that was of no consolation.
The Dodgers fell to the Padres, 2-1, and their elimination number for the second of two National League wild-card spots was down to four.
With eight games remaining on their schedule, the Dodgers are 4 1/2 games back of the team they have to catch, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Gonzalez was in the on-deck circle when Matt Kemp flied out to right field to end the game. Dee Gordon was on third base and Mark Ellis was on first.
Manager Don Mattingly used an expletive to describe the loss, noting that the Dodgers wasted a decent start by Josh Beckett.
Back in the clubhouse, Gonzalez and Shane Victorino were staring at computer screens in the middle of the room, presumably watching recordings of their at-bats.
They don't have much time to figure out what's wrong.
The Dodgers can be eliminated as early as Friday.
Because of what this three-game series in San Diego means to his team, Gonzalez acknowledged that he had to suppress his emotions.
Pointing at his head with both index fingers, Gonzalez, said, "Right here is 'Win, win, win, win, win, get a couple of big hits and win.' "
Then Gonzalez put his hands to his chest and said, "Right here it's like …" while gesturing as if he was trying to hold something in.
Gonzalez was born in San Diego. When he was less than 1 year old, he and his family moved to Tijuana. He moved back to San Diego when he was 11.
He became a star at Eastlake High in nearby Chula Vista and was selected with the first overall pick in the 2000 amateur draft by the Florida Marlins. Three years later, he was traded to the Texas Rangers.
Before the 2006 season, he was traded to the Padres.
He spent the next five seasons with the Padres, who gave him his first chance to be an everyday player. With the Padres, Gonzalez transformed into an All-Star.
But with the Padres figuring they couldn't afford to sign him to a contract extension, they traded him to the Boston Red Sox before the 2011 season. He still has an off-season home in the San Diego area, but hadn't played at Petco Park since.
"I spent most of my career with them," Gonzalez said. "Five years. They gave me the opportunity to be able to develop my career in the big leagues. There's a lot of appreciation I have for them."
Gonzalez's first hit on Tuesday came in the sixth inning, when a baserunning error by Kemp cost the Dodgers a potential run. The Dodgers loaded the bases later that inning, only for Luis Cruz to ground into a force play.
The Dodgers didn't score until the ninth inning, when A.J. Ellis doubled in Cruz. Gordon pinch-ran for Ellis and reached third base on a sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Nick Punto. Mark Ellis walked to put men at the corners, but Andre Ethier struck out and Kemp flied out.
Until the ninth inning, the most life the Dodgers showed was in the seventh inning, when Logan Forsythe grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Ellis took issue with how Everth Cabrera slid into second base, resulting in an exchange of words. Both benches cleared. Kemp played the peacemaker, as he stood between the two mobs and waved back the Padres.