Padres nip Dodgers to take over NL West lead

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- If it weren't for playing the Los Angeles
Dodgers, the San Diego Padres might be lagging in the NL West.

Thanks to their domination of the Dodgers, the Padres instead
are a half-game up in the division, passing Los Angeles with a 2-1
victory Sunday.

San Diego has won eight of the last nine meetings. The Padres
are 13-4 overall against Los Angeles and 7-1 at Dodger Stadium.

"There's no rhyme or reason to it," Padres manager Bruce Bochy

Chris Young pitched one-hit ball for six innings, pinch-hitter
Terrmel Sledge singled home the go-ahead run in the ninth and
Trevor Hoffman earned his 475th career save.

"They seem to get the big hits and pitch the big innings when
they need them," said the Dodgers' Derek Lowe, who held San Diego
to Russell Branyan's solo homer over seven innings.

The Padres, atop the division for the first time since Aug. 9,
go for their third straight win in the four-game set on Monday
night at Dodger Stadium, their final regular-season meeting.

The Dodgers won the opener 3-1 behind Greg Maddux, and the
Padres bounced back with an 11-2 victory on Saturday night.

"We don't want them to win three out of four at our park,"
Lowe said. "We need to play the last game as if it's a must-win."

Branyan agreed, from the Padres' perspective.

"We're in first place by a half a game, and tomorrow's game
really separates the men from the boys, I believe," he said. "If
we can go up a game and a half with 14 games left in the season,
we'll be looking pretty good."

Bochy figures the race will remain tight down the stretch.

"We're right there. We know it," he said. "It's neck and
neck. It's great to get this one. To come back after a tough loss
and win two straight is big."

Los Angeles manager Grady Little also believes it will gone down
to the wire.

"It was a tight game in a tight pennant race -- and it's going
to remain that way," he said.

While the Dodgers dropped out of the division lead, they are one
game ahead of Philadelphia for the wild card.

Sledge singled to right off Jonathon Broxton to score
pinch-runner Khalil Greene from second base. Josh Bard singled with
one out, Greene came into the game and Geoff Blum walked.

With the bases loaded, Broxton (3-1) struck out Brian Giles and
retired Josh Barfield on a foul pop to keep the Dodgers within one

Scott Linebrink (7-3) shut out Los Angeles in the eighth, and
Hoffman pitched the ninth for his 39th save in 43 chances, and his
career total is just three shy of Lee Smith's major league record.

After Chris Young held the Dodgers to one hit during his six
shutout innings, Russell Martin homered off Cla Meredith with one
out in the seventh to tie it at 1.

Martin's shot over the fence in center was his ninth of the
season and ended Meredith's franchise-record string of 34 scoreless
innings. The San Diego reliever hadn't allowed a run in 28
appearances dating to July 17.

After the game, Meredith wasn't too concerned with his streak.

"I can look at it and praise myself, but there's a lot more
important things going on right now -- including this afternoon and
the way we won that ballgame," he said. "So as long as things
like that are happening, there's no way I'll be able to reflect on
anything personal right now."

Branyan hit his fourth homer with two out in the sixth to break
a scoreless tie.

The lone hit allowed by Young, who has been sensational on the
road this year, was Kenny Lofton's infield single in the third.
Young walked five and struck out four.

Although he did not get a decision, Young remained unbeaten in
his last 23 road starts going back to a loss on June 20 of last
year with the Texas Rangers. He's 9-0 on the road since that
defeat, including 6-0 this year.

Lowe scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out nine -- one
more than his previous high this year and one less than his career

Game notes
Dodgers 1B Nomar Garciaparra, recovering from a strained
left quad, was not in the starting lineup, but pinch-hit in the
ninth, striking out. He's expected to be back in the lineup on
Monday. ... The Padres stacked their lineup with left-handed
hitters against Lowe. Excluding switch-hitters Bard and Blum, the
only right-handed hitters in their starting lineup were Mike
Cameron and Young.