L.A. nears mathematical elimination

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The San Diego Padres didn't waste any time in
dealing the rival Los Angeles Dodgers a big blow to their wild-card

Phil Nevin hit a three-run homer in the first inning and the
Padres scored the game's first seven runs en route to a 9-5 win
Monday night.

The Dodgers fell 3½ games behind Florida in the wild-card race,
with seven games left and three teams in between. Los Angeles has
lost five of seven since sweeping the Padres at Dodger Stadium
Sept. 12-14.

"They beat us in the first two innings," Dodgers manager Jim
Tracy said. "When we get down that quickly, you won't find too
many times when we came back and overcame a deficit like that."

Tracy tried to remain optimistic, pointing out that Wilson Alvarez, Kevin Brown and Hideo Nomo pitch for the Dodgers the next
three games.

"We're still in it and still playing," Tracy said.

Los Angeles starter Odalis Perez was forced out after one inning
with a blood blister on the middle finger of his left hand. Perez
had been scratched from his scheduled start last Wednesday because
of a broken nail on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

Perez left trailing 4-0 after allowing hits to the first five
batters he faced, including Nevin's shot into the seats in left,
his 13th.

A trainer came out and looked at Perez's hand, but he stayed in
and allowed a single to rookie Xavier Nady on his next pitch.

Perez (12-12) allowed five hits, walked one and struck out one.
Edwin Jackson came on to start the second.

By jumping on the Dodgers early, the Padres were able to avoid
the core of Los Angeles' bullpen, particularly closer Eric Gagne, who has 53 straight saves this year and a big-league record 61 in a

"You want to score runs early, get a lead and stay away from
the guys down there," Nevin said.

The Padres were coming off a 2-8 road trip.

"We're not talking about being spoilers," manager Bruce Bochy
said. "We're trying to finish strong. They've got a great ballclub
over there, and it was an important ballgame, but it was important
for us, too."

Nady went 3-for-4, and he and Brian Giles drove in two runs apiece as the Padres improved to 10-6 against Los Angeles this season. Nady hit RBI singles in the second and fourth innings as the Padres built a 7-0 lead.

San Diego scored twice on wild pitches, one each by Jackson and
Masao Kida.

Padres starter Mike Bynum (1-3) struggled to make it through
five innings to get the win. He allowed three runs on four hits in
the fifth, three of them for extra bases. Alex Cora, who tied a
career high with four hits, had an RBI triple and pinch-hitter Mike Kinkade an RBI double.

The Dodgers threatened again in the seventh but got just one
run, on Paul Lo Duca's single. Shawn Green flied out to end the
inning, leaving runners on first and second.

Bynum allowed three runs and six hits, struck out six and walked
none. Trevor Hoffman pitched the ninth and allowed Lo Duca's RBI
double, his first run in seven innings over seven appearances since
returning Sept. 2 from two offseason shoulder surgeries.

The Padres opened their final homestand at Qualcomm Stadium.
They have six games left at the Mission Valley stadium, where
they've played for 35 seasons. Their new downtown ballpark is
scheduled to open in April.

Game notes
Mark Loretta singled twice to give him 184 hits this
season, which tied Roberto Alomar's team record set in 1989. ...
The Padres returned from a road trip to find the field at Qualcomm
Stadium a mess after it hosted three football games in eight days.
"It's as bad as I've seen," manager Bruce Bochy said. The
Chargers played home games the last two Sundays, and San Diego State
played at home Saturday night.