The Dodgers were getting tired of being doormats for pennant-contending San Diego. So Andre Ethier and Hiroki Kuroda sent the Padres back down the I-5 freeway for their next series against Cincinnati with a critical loss that pushed them back into second place in the NL West.
Kuroda pitched eight superb innings, Ethier had two run-scoring hits and Los Angeles won 3-1 Thursday night to end San Diego's six-game winning streak against the Dodgers.
The Padres fell a half-game behind the San Francisco Giants, who beat the Chicago Cubs 13-0 at Wrigley Field. San Diego also is a half-game back of Atlanta in the wild-card race.
"It's not like we have nothing to play for. We have pride," Dodgers catcher Rod Barajas said. "You don't want to be the punching bag. I mean, we lost six straight to them coming into this game - and for me, that's not a good feeling. I don't like being handled that way by any opponent. Whether we're in the playoff hunt or not, I want to beat them."
Kuroda (11-13) allowed one run and five hits, struck out four and walked one. The right-hander, who has made 65 starts without a complete game since his one-hitter against Atlanta on July 7, 2008, threw 98 pitches and retired 14 of his last 15 batters before Hong-Chih Kuo struck out the side in the ninth for his 10th save in 11 chances.
"Kuroda threw a lot of pitches in that first inning, yet his pitch count tonight was very economical. He was dominant. It was great to watch," manager Joe Torre said. "It means so much to go out there and beat a club that's in first place. We can't be there, so you hope you can affect the race in some way. At least we're trying to do our job, and we did it tonight. We got excited - at least I did."
Mat Latos (14-8) lost his third straight decision, charged with three runs and six hits over five-plus innings after allowing 13 runs in 5 1-3 innings over his previous two starts. The 22-year-old right-hander is 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in three career starts at Dodger Stadium.
"Guys went up there battling, waiting for the right pitch to hit, and he left a few balls up that he normally didn't leave up," Ethier said. "The last two times we faced him, we capitalized. We only got three runs off him tonight, but it happened to be enough. He was still executing pitches and hitting his spots, but we got key hits at the right time."
Ethier tied the score 1-all in the first with an RBI double that scored Rafael Furcal from first base. Two innings later, Ethier gave the Dodgers the lead with a two-out RBI single after Furcal singled and stole second.
Ethier took over the club RBI lead from Matt Kemp, increasing his total to 78. It was the first time he had more than one run-scoring hit in a game since Aug. 10 at Philadelphia, when he had three hits that drove in four runs in a 15-9 victory. This was only the second time Ethier's done it since the All-Star break.
"The double down the line was a curveball, a pitch that he normally doesn't hit, but I left it up," Latos said. "If it found the zone, he would have swung over it. The next hit was on a slider that kind of backed up on me and he punched it through a hole."
Barajas drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the sixth, making it 3-1.
Kuroda went to three-ball counts on each of his first four batters, including an intentional walk to cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez after singles by Will Venable and David Eckstein and a run-scoring groundout by Miguel Tejada. Kuroda minimized the damage by getting Ryan Ludwick to ground into a double play.
"For him to get that double play after giving up that quick run, I thought it was a big moment because it very easily could have snowballed into a big inning," Barajas said. "Going into the game, I expected him to pitch well because he had great stuff in the bullpen when I was warming him up. He had good movement with the sinker and great life. The same thing with the cutter."
Padres center fielder Tony Gwynn Jr., activated from the disabled list Sept. 13 after missing 23 games with a broken right hand, was in the starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 18 and went 0 for 2.
"Tony feels good physically, and there's no restrictions mentally or physically with the hammy," Padres manager Bud Black said.
NOTES: Dodgers pitchers have issued a major league-high 72 intentional walks this season, and 198 during Torre's three years as manager. During the three seasons before Torre's arrival, the Dodgers issued 108 intentional walks. ... Los Angeles was outscored 24-4 in its previous six games against the Padres after beating them 9-0 on Aug. 4 on a two-hitter by Vicente Padilla. ... Gonzalez did not have an RBI in the series.
© 2010 The Associated Press.