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While Vicente Padilla was flirting with a no-hitter, ultimately settling for a two-hit shutout and carrying the Dodgers to their second desperately needed victory in a row over the San Diego Padres 9-0 before 48,988, the veteran right-hander was also affording himself another dose of vindication less than 12 months after his unconditional release by the Texas Rangers was publicly cheered by at least a couple of his teammates there.Since being picked up by the Dodgers just two days after he hit the open market last August, Padilla has mostly been a model citizen. There was an incident in Denver earlier this year involving accusations by a female companion of Padilla's, but police found no evidence to support the charges. Other than that, there has been no sign of controversy, no indication of whatever it was that had so sullied Padilla's reputation before he came to town. Perhaps more than anyone could have envisioned, there has been superb pitching. A strong case could be made that if you take the 2010 season as a whole, Padilla has been the Dodgers' most dominating starter, even if he hasn't been their best starter. That has been especially true since he returned in mid-June from a two-month stint on the disabled list with a nerve problem at the top of his right forearm. In nine subsequent starts, Padilla has a 1.80 ERA, is barely averaging a hit every two innings and has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4-1. And really, it shouldn't come as that much of a surprise. The decision not only to pluck Padilla off the scrap heap a year ago but to sign him over the winter to a one-year, $5.025 million contract with a lot more money in incentives, which Padilla probably won't reach now because of the time he missed, had a lot more to do with his track record than his reputation. Padilla is, after all, a 12-year major league veteran with a career mark of 103-88, a guy who has reached double figures in wins five different times in his career. The fact he probably won't get there this year (he is 5-3) has more to do with an injury, bad luck and bad run support than anything else. It isn't clear what the Dodgers will do regarding Padilla this winter, but given that Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent who might choose to return to Japan and Ted Lilly is a free agent who might choose to go elsewhere, the club might be well served to hold onto him. With whatever happened in Texas now buried in his distant past, Padilla might command more than a one-year deal this winter, but the Dodgers will need somebody to put in their rotation with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley next year. Holding onto Padilla probably will be easier and less costly than retaining either Kuroda or Lilly. At any rate, Padilla showed against the Padres what he is capable of, and he couldn't have picked a more important game in which to do it. Through six innings, he had retired 18 of 20 batters, issuing one walk that was intentional and one that wasn't. He lost his no-hit bid when he gave up back-to-back, one-out singles to Ryan Ludwick and Chase Headley in the seventh, but Yorvit Torrealba ended that mini-threat by grounding into a double play. Padilla went right back to work, retiring the final six batters of the game in order. In the meantime, the Dodgers (56-52) exploded on Padres reliever Edward Mujica for five runs in the bottom of the eighth, turning a semi-blowout into a full-blown one. When Padilla had taken care of business in the ninth, getting Adrian Gonzalez to hit the ball directly to a Dodgers infielder in an exaggerated shift for the fourth time in four at-bats to end the game, he had pitched the fourth-place Dodgers to within seven games of the division-leading Padres in the National League West. Padilla needed 105 pitches to record his fourth career shutout. "I was very happy because I didn't throw many pitches," Padilla said, with Kenji Nimura translating. "The last few games, I threw a lot of pitches. But tonight, I threw a lot of strikes, and I was able to minimize by pitch count."
|Andre Ethier broke out of a slump in a big way, going 3-for-5 with a two-run home run in the Dodgers' win over the Padres.|