• Turning point: Loney broke open a two-run game in the fourth when he smashed a two-run home run, his 11th of the season.
• Hero: Stepping in for the injured Derek Lowe, Billingsley (11-4) allowed five hits, fanned five and cut his ERA to 3.14.
• Hunt for October: The second-place Padres dropped 3 1/2 games behind Arizona, which beat San Francisco 9-4, in the NL West.
• Quotable: "That's just Billingsley. He doesn't back down ever. He always wants the ball." -- Dodgers' Russell Martin
-- ESPN.com news services
Dodgers 6, Padres 1
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Believing he was going to pitch Thursday night, Chad Billingsley threw a 30-pitch bullpen session 48 hours earlier.
Then, the 23-year-old right-hander got the news -- because of an injury to Derek Lowe, his start against San Diego might be moved up.
Billingsley did an excellent job of filling in by limiting San Diego to one run over six innings, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Padres 6-1 on Wednesday night.
Rookie James Loney homered for the fifth time in his last six games for the Dodgers, who won for just the third time in their last 11 games against the Padres and moved within 2½ games of San Diego in the NL wild-card race. Philadelphia and Colorado also trail San Diego by 2½ games.
The second-place Padres dropped 3½ games behind the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, who beat San Francisco 9-4. The Dodgers trail Arizona by six games.
Billingsley hadn't pitched since last Friday, so he had the normal rest between starts. But he wouldn't have thrown in the bullpen had he known his outing was being moved up.
"That's just Billingsley. He doesn't back down ever," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. "He always wants the ball."
Billingsley (11-4) allowed five hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 109 pitches before being lifted for a pinch hitter.
"Grady came to me during the game [Tuesday night] and told me I might be bumped up a game," Billingsley said, referring to manager Grady Little. "It happens. Today was just a battling day -- I just wanted to get through it and give the team a chance to win the game."
Billingsley did that despite facing two bases-loaded jams.
"The starting pitching sets the tone for any big series, and Billingsley again did it to us," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We had him against the ropes a couple of times, but couldn't break through.
"He wasn't quite as sharp as we've seen him and his command was a little off, but he made some pitches and wiggled out of some jams, which is a testament to him."
Billingsley is 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA against the Padres in 25 2/3 innings this season.
"I can't explain it," he said. "Some teams, you've just got their number."
Lowe, 11-12 with a 3.80 ERA and three complete games, was injured while playing catch with pitcher Jonathan Broxton before Tuesday night's game.
Lowe won't pitch before Saturday.
Left-hander David Wells, released by San Diego last month, will pitch against Padres right-hander Greg Maddux in a matchup of 40-something veterans Thursday night in the finale of the three-game series.
"I don't go out there to try and hit a home run. I'm just trying to hit the ball," said the 23-year-old Loney, who has 11 homers in 276 at-bats this season. He had four in 48 games for the Dodgers last season, and had only 35 in 529 minor league games.
"This guy hits the ball hard enough for some of them to leave the ballpark," Little said. "He's just a young man. He's stronger this year than he was last year, and he'll be stronger next year than he is this year."
The Dodgers went ahead for good by scoring an unearned run in the second on Loney's one-out double, an error by right fielder Brian Giles and Martin's infield out. Rafael Furcal hit a two-out single, stole second and scored on a single by Juan Pierre in the third to make it 2-0.
The Padres loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth, but scored only once -- when Terrmel Sledge grounded into a double play.
Matt Kemp singled to start the bottom of the fourth and one out later, Loney hit a 2-2 pitch from Germano into the right field pavilion for his 11th homer, making it 4-1.
Kent opened the sixth with his 20th homer, and Loney followed with a single to chase Germano. Martin greeted Justin Hampson with an RBI double to complete the scoring.
Germano allowed eight hits and six runs, five earned, in five-plus innings. He has lost 10 of 12 decisions after starting 5-0.
The Padres loaded the bases with two outs in the second before Germano popped to first. Khalil Green and Kevin Kouzmanoff hit one-out singles in the sixth before Billingsley retired Michael Barrett on a liner to center and Sledge on a grounder to second.
Kent has hit 20 or more homers in 12 seasons, and 365 in his career. ... The Padres are 10-7 against the Dodgers this season after winning 13 of the 18 games between the teams last year. ... Little hopes Lowe will be able to pitch Saturday in the second game of a three-game series against Arizona. ... RHP Jake Peavy, who won his 17th game Tuesday night, has the most wins by a Padre since RHP Kevin Brown won 18 in 1998. ... Green and Kouzmanoff both had three hits for the Padres, and Kouzmanoff has reached base in nine consecutive plate appearances, going 7-for-7 with two walks. ... San Diego's Mike Cameron struck out five times -- three against Billingsley.