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Struggling Dodgers Host Struggling Padres

(Sports Network) - The San Diego Padres hope to continue their push towards a National League West title this evening when they open a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.

The Padres have hit the skids of late and enter tonight's opener having lost four of their last five games to fall a half-game back of the San Francisco Giants in the division.

San Diego slipped out of first place on Sunday, as it fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals, while the Giants beat Milwaukee to reclaim the top spot. The Padres are also two games back of the Atlanta Braves for the wild card.

"We're in a position to continue to make this a great race," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Our guys will all come out ready to play on Tuesday."

Will Venable had two hits in the loss and has hit safely in eight of his last 11 games with an at-bat. Over that stretch, he has six multi-hit games and is hitting .484 (16-for-33).

Clayton Richard takes the hill for the Padres tonight attempting to win for the first time in four starts. Richard dropped his third straight decision on Wednesday in Colorado, as he was hammered for eight runs and 11 hits in just three innings, dropping him to 12-8, while raising his earned run average to 3.70.

"They hit balls hard. They hit balls soft. They broke bats for hits. It was their day against Clayton," said Black.

Richard beat the Dodgers the last time he faced them and is 3-0 lifetime against them with a 3.57 ERA in four starts.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, has fallen out of the race, but has had a say in what has transpired atop the NL West over the last week, as it dropped two of three to the Giants, before salvaging the finale of its three-game set with the Rockies on Sunday.

The Dodgers snapped a four-game skid on Sunday when it rallied from five runs down and pulled out a 6-5 win over the Rockies in 11 innings.

"We showed we had some fight in us," said Matt Kemp, who tied the game in the ninth with an RBI double. "We're not worried about spoiling it for anybody. We just want to win games."

Heading to the hill for the Dodgers tonight will be righty Chad Billingsley, who is 11-10 with a 3.55 ERA. Billingsley lost for the third time in four starts on Wednesday in San Francisco, but pitched well, surrendering just a run and six hits in seven innings of a 2-1 loss.

He lost to the Padres the last time he faced them, but is 10-6 in 22 games (18 starts) with a 2.68 ERA.

San Diego has won eight of its 15 meetings with the Dodgers this season.