LOS ANGELES -- It was only after sweating out another close game last week when San Diego manager Bud Black described intradivision play within the rugged National League West as a "dogfight." The word drew a chuckle, though it certainly wasn't intended as a joke. If anything, it's a suitable way to depict the games the Padres have played and likely will play against their divisional brethren. In that vein, Friday's game at Dodger Stadium was every bit a dogfight and maybe more.
The Padres bolted to a five-run lead early behind Chris Young and held on in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Trevor Hoffman got the final out of a 7-6 victory with the potential tying run at second base. Dogfight? No kidding. "That's a very appropriate term Bud used," Young said afterward. "From top to bottom, all the teams in this division are relatively equal. ... It is going to be the little things that separate these teams. A lot of games are going to be tight." And, so far this season, they already have been for the Padres, who improved to 14-16 in games decided by one run, many coming against the Dodgers, Giants, D-backs and the Rockies. This would go a long way in explaining just how the Padres (45-33) are only a scant half-game ahead of the D-backs and one game ahead of the Dodgers (45-35), who nearly ruined a big night from Young and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. It was Young (8-2) who overcame a semi-rocky start on Friday, allowing two runs over the first three innings and appeared at times to be troubled by the Los Angeles running game that produced five stolen bases during the six innings he pitched. It was only the second time in Young's last nine starts that he has allowed two or more earned runs. "There's only a couple of starts we've seen Chris a little off as far as making mistakes," Black said. "But overall, you go six innings and give up two runs and you can't be too upset. The way he's been pitching, you expect the norm. But he still only allowed two runs." The rest of the pitching staff -- despite being staked to a 7-2 lead after a six-run fourth inning, highlighted by Kouzmanoff's three-run home run -- wasn't nearly as sharp or effective as Young. For the fourth time since June 19, San Diego's normally nasty bullpen corps looked a little out of sorts, allowing three or more runs in a game, as Cla Meredith, Royce Ring, Scott Linebrink and Hoffman allowed four runs over the last three innings. The Dodgers scored three runs in the eighth inning off Meredith and Ring, though the damage could have been worse as Linebrink got the final two outs of the inning while holding a 7-5 advantage. Things really got hairy in the ninth inning for Hoffman, who earned save No. 22 this season, though he had to work exceptionally hard for it. Leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal doubled to start the ninth, eventually coming around to score on Russell Martin's ground ball with two outs. But Hoffman wasn't out of trouble yet, as Jeff Kent doubled to center field. Finally, Hoffman got Luis Gonzalez to pop out in foul territory to Padres catcher Michael Barrett to end the game. A dogfight, indeed. "Trev knows how to work through an inning," Black said. "The Dodgers battled ... They didn't let up." There didn't appear to be any quit in the Padres' offense during their six-run outburst in the fourth inning against Hong-Chih Kuo (1-4), who had allowed only an RBI triple to Jose Cruz Jr. over the first three innings. But the Padres got four consecutive hits to open the fourth -- a double by Mike Cameron, an RBI single by Barrett, then a single by Khalil Greene followed by a three-run blast by Kouzmanoff, his seventh home run of the season. Never in his mind, especially with Young on the mound, did Kouzmanoff figure that the Padres would be hanging on at the end. But, again, the dogfight theory certainly applies. "It's a tough division," Kouzmanoff said. "Fans are going to get a great game. Baseball can be weird. You've got to keep pounding away, getting runs." That was something the Padres couldn't do after the fourth inning, as Los Angeles relief pitchers Rudy Seanez, Mark Hendrickson, Joe Beimel and Chin-hui Tsao combined for 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Brian Giles, in his first game back since May 19, reached base three times while hitting in the leadoff spot for the first time since 1997 when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians. Giles had been on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his right knee.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.