Chase Headley, Will Venable help Padres stretch NL West lead

LOS ANGELES -- No one in the San Diego clubhouse would admit it, but the NL West-leading Padres must have realized that this four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers was a perfect opportunity to bury the two-time defending division champs for good in 2010.

Chase Headley had four hits, including a three-run homer, Will Venable homered and drove in four runs, and the Padres beat Los Angeles 10-5 on Monday night in the opener of a four-game series.

"This is a pivotal time for us. We're not very good right now," manager Joe Torre said. "We certainly have to get it together."

Los Angeles equaled a season-worst six-game losing streak and is nine games back in the division with 56 games remaining, including six with San Diego.

Did someone say impossible?

"I don't think we're thinking like that. We're focused on the next game, and that's all we're worried about," Headley said after the Padres' seventh victory in 10 games. "We understand they're a talented club and they're probably not playing as well as they're capable of right now. But they're still a dangerous team."

The Padres have bigger concerns -- like holding on to their two-game lead over the San Francisco Giants.

"We don't take anything for granted and we don't think about anything past today's game," manager Bud Black said. "I think that's part of our success. We're not thinking bigger picture. We're really focused on the present, and that's a good thing for our club."

Clayton Richard (9-5) allowed four runs and 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings and struck out six while matching his shortest outing this season. The left-hander was coming off an 8-5 victory over the Dodgers at San Diego last Wednesday and is 3-0 in four career starts against them.

Matt Kemp had a career-high five hits, including a solo homer and two RBI singles, but was one of two Los Angeles baserunners trapped off first base on inning-ending line-drive double plays in the fifth and sixth innings.

"If you want to talk about who hit the ball harder, we were right there with them," teammate Andre Ethier said. "I know they popped a couple out of the ballpark, but I don't think we had as many fall in between outfielders as they did. Sometimes that's how games are won. They had some big hits in key situations and we didn't."

The Dodgers held a closed-door meeting earlier than usual before the start of a series after averaging a paltry 1.8 runs over their previous 11 games, then went out and squandered scoring chances in each of the first two innings -- despite getting hits from five consecutive batters.

In the first, they got two-out singles from Kemp, James Loney and Casey Blake -- but Loney was thrown out at third by center fielder Chris Denorfia before Kemp nonchalantly crossed the plate, and umpire Ted Barrett emphatically signaled that the run didn't count.

"I probably should have ran a little bit harder, and then we wouldn't be talking about that right now," Kemp said.

Ethier and Russell Martin opened the second inning with singles and advanced on a groundout, but pitcher Hiroki Kuroda struck out and newly acquired Scott Podsednik flied out.

"It's a little disappointing. Anytime you get five hits in a row, you expect to score a run," Ethier said.

This was the second time this season the Dodgers lost a run because a runner eased up on the way to the plate while another runner was erased for the final out of an inning. It also happened in Anaheim on June 23, when Martin slid past second on a bloop single by Jamey Carroll and was tagged out before pinch-runner Reed Johnson made it home. That blunder was the final out of a 2-1 loss to the Angels.

"We had a situation where one runner didn't run fast enough and another runner ran too fast. They're both at fault," Torre said. "Matt has to know it's a 3-2 [count] and James is going to be running. James has to be mindful of the guy in front of him and make sure he scores. The only reason to go to third base with two outs is if you know you can stand up."

Kuroda (8-10) was charged with five runs -- four earned -- and seven hits over four innings in his rematch with Richard. Dodgers starting pitchers had a 1.81 ERA over the previous 15 games.

"Anytime you face a pitcher a couple of times fairly close together, the hitter definitely has the advantage," Headley said. "To be honest, early on, we weren't hitting a whole lot of balls hard off of him. They just found some holes and we were able to get to him."

Miguel Tejada hit a two-run single in the fourth, his first RBIs since joining the Padres in a trade from Baltimore last Thursday. Headley broke it open in the sixth with his eighth homer, a first-pitch drive to right-center against Weaver with two outs that made it 10-2.

"He's got that good split, so my approach with him is not swinging at the split down and laying off the cutter in," Venable said. "He's tough and can beat you in a lot of ways, so not missing those mistakes he throws is what you've got to do -- because he doesn't make a lot of them."

Game notes
The only 1-2-3 inning was the top of the first. ... Ted Lilly and Octavio Dotel, who were obtained in trades over the weekend, bring the total of former New York Yankees pitchers to be reunited with Torre in Los Angeles to seven. The list also includes Weaver, George Sherrill, Tanyon Sturtze, Scott Proctor and Esteban Loaiza. ... Padres C Yorvit Torrealba extended his hitting streak to 15 games, one shy of his career best.