He felt good enough to pinch-hit, though.
Ethier delivered a clutch two-run single with two outs in the seventh inning off Jon Garland to give the Dodgers a 2-0 win over the NL West-leading San Diego Padres on Tuesday night, the first of seven games between the division rivals in 10 days.
The Dodgers came into the game in third place, six games behind the Padres. LA has won five of six against the Padres this year and four straight at Petco Park. The Dodgers improved to 25-8 against the West, the best intra-division record in baseball.
Ethier didn't start due to a stomach bug but manager Joe Torre had him bat for Chad Billingsley with the bases loaded and the rivals locked in a scoreless tie. Ethier singled up the middle to bring in Blake DeWitt and Garret Anderson.
"He's such a good hitter, and sometimes when you're a little under the weather, it sort of keeps you from getting too amped up, so to speak," Torre said. "You're just more relaxed than anything else. He hit that ball on the button."
Torre said Ethier began feeling ill on Monday night and didn't take batting practice on the field, but was able to hit in the indoor cage before the game.
Torre was short of bench players so he told Ethier he didn't want him to start and then have to come out in the middle innings.
"I just wanted to have him understand that I needed him," Torre said, "but running back and forth into the outfield probably was something that really wasn't going to work all night for him.
"I said, 'I'd rather save you for spot.' That couldn't have been a more perfect spot, where they have to pitch to him."
Garland said it was his decision to intentionally walk Martin.
"I wanted to do it and we lost," Garland said.
As for the pitch to Ethier, "If he grounds out, it's a good pitch," Garland said. "If he gets a base hit, it's a bad pitch. He got a hit, so in my eyes, it's a bad pitch."
Ethier "stepped up and got a big hit there because Garland pitched well all night and he was giving us trouble," DeWitt said.
Padres manager Bud Black said Garland was pitching well enough that he didn't think of going with left-hander Joe Thatcher to face the left-handed Ethier.
"You take a calculated risk that Jon can get out whoever pinch-hits, if they decide to pinch-hit for Billingsley and get him out of the game," Black said. "I thought it was Jon's game."
It was Los Angeles' 11th shutout. Dodgers starters are 4-1 in their last six games, allowing just one earned run. The Padres have been blanked five times. Each team had just five hits.
Garland (9-7) retired James Loney and Casey Blake in the seventh before allowing consecutive singles to DeWitt and Anderson. Russell Martin was intentionally walked with Billingsley coming up. Torre had Ethier pinch-hit, and he drove a 1-1 pitch up the middle to give the Dodgers the lead.
Billingsley (9-5) held the Padres to three singles in six scoreless innings, struck out four and walked two. Jonathan Broxton pitched a perfect ninth for his 20th save in 23 chances.
He got into a bases-loaded jam by allowing three straight singles to open the fourth, then got out of it just as quickly. Adrian Gonzalez was forced at home on Will Venable's grounder to second, Tony Gwynn Jr. popped up to shortstop and Everth Cabrera took a called third strike. Billingsley improved to 10-4 lifetime against San Diego, his most wins against any team.
The Dodgers had runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth before Garland retired the top of the order. He got Rafael Furcal to fly out before striking out Xavier Paul, subbing for Ethier in right, and Matt Kemp.
Garland allowed two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings, struck out five and walked two.
Former big leaguer Dave Roberts, a special assistant for the Padres, says he's encouraged after finishing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma. He said a PET scan was clean. Roberts has three weeks of radiation treatment scheduled for August. "Mentally I see a light at the end of the tunnel. Chemo was taxing but the support I've received is very humbling and it has been great to have. I see the end is near and that's encouraging," Roberts said. ... San Diego's Yorvit Torrealba singled in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Boxer Shane Mosley threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Padres setup man Mike Adams, on the disabled list with a strained left oblique, threw a bullpen session.