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Dodgers Desire Deeper Divisional Damage, Dominance

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(Sports Network) - Excellent pitching and timely hitting made the Los Angeles Dodgers look like the first-place team last night versus the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles goes for its first four-game winning streak in almost two months tonight, when it tries to inch closer to National League West-leading San Diego in the second contest of a three-game set at Petco Park.

The Dodgers came into last night's game with the Padres six games back in the race for the division crown, but shaved one off that deficit with a 2-0 victory.

Chad Billingsley allowed just three hits and two walks over six innings, but was replaced by a pinch-hitting Andre Ethier during the seventh because it was a scoreless game. The move paid off for Los Angeles manager Joe Torre, as Ethier hit a two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs despite not starting the game due to illness.

That hit made Billingsley a winner, and Hong-Chih Kuo followed with two scoreless innings of relief before Jonathan Broxton recorded his 20th save of the season.

"I didn't want [Billingsley] starting the game and coming out in the fifth inning," Torre said. "That couldn't have been more of a perfect spot, when they had to pitch to him."

Ethier's hit scored both Blake DeWitt and Garret Anderson for the Dodgers, who have won five of six and aim for their first four-game winning streak since June 6-9.

Jon Garland took the loss after giving up two runs over 6 2/3 innings. Yorvit Torrealba had a pair of hits for the Padres, who failed to score in the fourth inning despite loading the bases with nobody out.

"Obviously we'd like to push runs across every night, but sometimes it doesn't go your way," Padres second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. said. "We just have to come back and be ready to play [Wednesday] night."

The Padres had a three-game winning streak end while the second-place San Francisco Giants pulled within 2 1/2 games of the division's top spot.

San Diego will look to rebound tonight behind Clayton Richard, who had won three consecutive decisions prior to a setback to the Braves on Thursday. The 26-year-old lefty allowed four runs, all but one earned, on nine hits and two walks over six innings, falling to 7-5 with a 3.57 earned run average on the season.

Richard has made two starts in his career versus the Dodgers, going 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA.

Hiroki Kuroda counters for the Dodgers after halting a three-start losing streak on Thursday. Facing the Mets, the 35-year-old Japanese import yielded five hits and a walk over eight scoreless innings to improve to 8-8 with a 3.48 ERA this year. However, Kuroda does have a 7.13 ERA over his last four outings.

The right-hander is 4-2 with a 4.91 ERA in his career versus the Padres.

Los Angeles has won five of six over the Padres this year, including a three- game sweep at Petco Park from May 14-16.