LOS ANGELES (AP) - Since getting shut out in their first three games of the season by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres have been hitting a little better.
The Padres are batting a more respectable .294 in their last 21 games - which gives cleanup hitter Melvin Upton Jr. considerably more confidence heading into May.
Upton hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the fifth inning, and the Padres also got RBI doubles from Wil Myers and Matt Kemp to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2 Saturday night.
“I think the focus has always been there,” Upton said. “We’re sticking to our game plan against these pitchers. We’re staying in the zone, getting good pitches to hit and swinging at them. But we’re not going to do this individually. We’ve got to do it as a team.”
Colin Rea (2-1) allowed two runs and four hits over six innings in his Dodger Stadium debut, helping send the three-time defending NL West champions to their sixth straight loss. The 25-year-old right-hander’s biggest mistake resulted in a two-run homer by Chase Utley in the third.
“It wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be, but the biggest thing was that good defense on the shift really came into play tonight,” Rea said. “They were hitting some balls right into the shift, and we made some big outs in those situations.”
Fernando Rodney got three outs for his fourth save in four chances. Since July 2014, the Padres have won 101 consecutive games in which they led after eight innings.
The Dodgers have totaled just 11 runs over the last six games since beating Colorado 12-10 at Coors Field last Sunday.
“These are our guys, and I believe in them. I know they’re going to come out of it,” manager Dave Roberts said. “You look at tonight and you don’t see a whole lot of signs that it’s going to turn. It looks lackluster and low-energy, but that’s the perception that comes with any team that’s struggling offensively. They’re still confident and they’re trying their tails off, so you’ve got to stick with them.”
Ross Stripling (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits through 4 2/3 innings, striking out six and walking two in his fifth big league start. The 26-year-old right-hander, who held San Francisco hitless through 7 1/3 innings in his big league debut on April 8, was coming off a 3-2 loss to Miami on Monday.
The score was tied 2-all when Stripling walked Myers and Kemp with two out in the fifth. It appeared that Stripling was squeezed by umpire Mark Wegner on a 2-2 pitch to Upton, who drove the next one to right-center to score both runners.
“He’s got good stuff,” Upton said. “We grinded out at-bats against him, drew some walks and came up with some big hits.”
Alexei Ramirez followed with an RBI single that chased Stripling and gave San Diego a 5-2 lead.
The Padres grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third with doubles by Jon Jay, Myers and Kemp on three consecutive pitches with one out.
The Dodgers tied it in the bottom half when Utley drove a 3-1 pitch into the right field pavilion for his first homer of the season, after a leadoff walk to Stripling. Utley’s 237 career homers are second among active second basemen.
Padres: 3B Adam Rosales struck out all four times up, raising his season total to 19 in 47 at-bats. … Kemp,who hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the eighth inning of Friday’s series-opening 5-1 victory is hitting .316 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 21 games against the Dodgers since they traded him to San Diego in a multiplayer deal that brought Yasmani Grandal to Los Angeles.
Dodgers: Utley had started only 11 games in the leadoff spot during his 13 previous big league seasons. This year, he has batted first in 21 games (19 starts) and is batting .289 with seven RBIs. … Carl Crawford, who leads all active players in triples, hit the 123rd of his career with two out in the fourth. But Rea struck out Stripling on a pitch in the dirt after an intentional walk to Joc Pederson.
Padres: LHP Drew Pomeranz (2-2) will be matched up against a left-hander for the fourth time in his first five starts when he opposes Clayton Kershaw in Sunday’s series finale. The only other time they started against each other was May 2, 2012, when Pomeranz allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings and Kershaw gave up five runs over 7 1/3. Neither got a decision, as the Colorado Rockies won 8-5 at Coors Field.
Dodgers: Kershaw (2-1, 2.43 ERA) is 13-6 with a 2.16 ERA in 28 career starts against the Padres. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner and 2014 MVP has won his last five outings against them, allowing just five runs in 39 innings during that stretch while striking out 49. Kershaw threw seven innings of one-hit ball at San Diego on opening day in a 15-0 victory.
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