Padres increase NL West lead to four games

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Brian Lawrence dominated the Los Angeles Dodgers as usual, despite feeling under the weather. The defense behind him was stellar, and San Diego's depth was evident again.

Robert Fick drove in three runs in place of injured catcher Ramon Hernandez, middle infielders Khalil Greene and Damian Jackson executed three double plays and Lawrence pitched shutout ball into the eighth inning as the injury-riddled Padres extended their NL West lead with an 8-3 victory Tuesday night.

"I felt terrible before the game started," Lawrence said. "I had a sinus cold, or something, and I had congestion in my head and was really tired -- just no energy.

"But once the game got going and once I got the blood flowing and the adrenaline flowing, I actually felt better as the game progressed -- and now I feel better than I have all day," he said.

Lawrence (5-6) was charged with two runs and five hits in 7 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked three, improving to 10-5 against Los Angeles.

The right-hander, who got his first big-league win at Dodger Stadium in 2001, has not allowed a home run in his last three starts -- after giving up seven in his previous five outings.

"His past four or five starts he's really been locating his sinker and not leaving many balls out over the middle of the plate," Fick said. "He kept his slider down tonight. He did everything I asked of him. He was awesome. He showed some guts out there."

San Diego (43-35) increased its lead in the division over second-place Arizona to four games. The Dodgers, whose entire offense consisted of a bases-loaded walk and a two-run wild pitch by former Dodger Rudy Seanez, are 6½ games off the pace.

"I'm not surprised at their overall record, but the manner in which they've done it is the biggest surprise," Dodgers catcher Jason Phillips said. "The guys who have stepped in for them have maintained and they haven't missed a beat regardless of who they have in the lineup."

Lawrence allowed a one-out walk and a single in the eighth before Jayson Werth greeted Seanez with a single that loaded the bases.

A walk to Hee-Seop Choi forced in the Dodgers' first run and then Werth hustled home behind Jeff Kent on a wild pitch to Phillips, beating Fick's throw and narrowing the gap to 5-3. But Phillips
grounded out and pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz struck out.

"Those Dodgers are tough over there," Fick said. "As banged up as they are over there, they're finding a way to make it interesting -- against us, anyway."

The Padres padded their lead in the ninth when reliever Duaner Sanchez walked Sean Burroughs with the bases loaded and gave up a two-run single to Xavier Nady.

Elmer Dessens (0-1) allowed three runs -- one earned -- and six hits in five innings. It was his first appearance at Dodger Stadium since the NL West clincher on Oct. 2, when he pitched the first four innings in a no-decision against San Francisco. The right-hander spent almost two months on the disabled list with an injured shoulder and made his other four starts this season on the road.

For the sixth consecutive game, the Padres took a 3-0 lead. A two-out error by Kent on Ryan Klesko's grounder to second led to a pair of unearned runs in the second inning.

Brian Giles ended an 0-for-15 drought with a double off the wall in right-center that sent Klesko to third, and Fick grounded a single to right that scored both runners. Giles drove in San
Diego's third run with a fifth-inning single.

"We've been able to score some runs early, but we've been having a problem putting teams away," Giles said. "I don't know if it's a case of us getting too anxious or the other team's pitcher is settling down and making good pitches. But it's definitely nice to get some early runs -- especially for our starter."

The Padres tacked on two more in the seventh with Klesko's RBI double and Fick's sacrifice fly. One week earlier, Fick singled home both Padres runs against Derek Lowe in a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers.

"We never thought we'd have to deal with the amount of injuries that we've had, but our role players and our bench have really played a huge part in our season to this point," manager Bruce Bochy said.

"It says a lot about the 25 guys we have here. They've all done something to contribute. When you have to deal with the adversity we've had with injuries, it does create a greater sense of unity, too, because everybody's getting playing time and doing their thing to help out."

Game notes
Los Angeles put a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings but failed to cash in. ... Antonio Perez was called out on batter's interference in the third, taking a late swing on a pitchout that caught the outside corner of the plate and knocking the ball out of Fick's glove as Cesar Izturis tried to steal second.