With Kemp, Juan Rivera, Juan Uribe and Jerry Hairston on the disabled list, manager Don Mattingly could have pulled the lineup he used out of a hat. It consisted of one Opening Day starter (Andre Ethier), five left-handed hitters (including all three outfielders) against lefty Clayton Richard and three players who were at Triple-A a week ago.
Not exactly what you'd expect for the team with the best record in baseball. Mattingly blamed the quality of play, not the quality of players.
"We're not good enough to come here, get four [actually five] hits and think we're going to win a game," he said. "I don't care what record they've got or what record we've got. You're not going to win like that."
The three right-handed hitters (Elian Herrera, Jerry Sands and Matt Treanor) accounted for three of the four hits the Dodgers got in seven innings off Richard, who holds left-handed hitters to nearly 100 points less in average than right-handed hitters (.286-.192).
The first two Dodgers hitters -- Tony Gwynn and Herrera (first Major League hit, double and RBI) -- reached base and scored off Richard and that was it for the Dodgers' offense, which had only three hits the rest of the game. No Dodger reached base between Sands' fourth-inning double and Bobby Abreu's ninth-inning single.
"We just didn't do enough," said Mattingly. "You really can't expect to win if you don't basically do anything between the first two hitters and the ninth inning. You can't expect to win a game like that. We didn't give ourselves a whole lot of chances. Right now, we've got to give ourselves opportunities or we're not going to score."
Richard now has two wins this year -- both against the Dodgers. He also had a no-decision against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, when he allowed eight runs in six innings, a Kemp homer included.
"He executed better after the first inning," said Gwynn, a former Padre teammate of Richard. "He showed me different locations. The ball was popping. He was throwing a lot better today than at our place. He pitched well. You've got to tip your hat to him. When he pitches like that, he can be tough."
The Dodgers came into this game 6-1 against San Diego this year and 13-5 against the NL West. Of greater concern, the Dodgers are 9-8 against left-handed starters, but 15-5 against right-handed starters. Kemp is hitting .486 against lefties.
"Left-handed pitchers give us more trouble," Mattingly said. "It doesn't matter if Matt's in the lineup. We've seen quite a few and, for the most part, we're not doing a lot with them."
And that will put extra pressure on the starting pitching, which to this point has been up to it. Even in defeat, Capuano pitched a winning game. He held the Padres to one run through six innings on Headley's second-inning homer. But the game changed quickly with one out in the sixth on an infield single by Cameron Maybin and a Chris Denorfia single that put runners on the corners for Headley.
Capuano's out-pitch all game had been a sinking changeup, but he left a couple 3-2 versions up in the zone to Headley, who fouled off one and laced the other into the left-center gap for a 3-2 lead.
"I was hoping to get a double play, trying to force contact and I tried to guide it," said Capuano. "I wasn't attacking like earlier in the game, sort of lost focus and tried to get a certain outcome instead of just getting the ball down. It wasn't the right focus."
Capuano booted a sacrifice in the seventh that led to an unearned insurance run when reliever Javy Guerra relieved Capuano and walked Maybin with the bases loaded.
A key play for the Dodgers occurred in the second inning, when Adam Kennedy fouled a pitch off his shin, the ball rolling to first baseman Jesus Guzman, who made the putout at first base and none of the umpires saw that the ball hit Kennedy's leg, but TV replays did. Matt Treanor followed with a double.
"Nobody's feeling sorry for ourselves or feel we have to do extra," Treanor said. "We're in a good place as far as that's concerned."