LOS ANGELES -- For the second consecutive night, the Padres were blown away by a Dodgers club steaming toward the playoffs, but at least this time around, the knockout punch did not come until late in the game. Los Angeles scored six in the eighth to pull away to a 12-4 victory at Dodger Stadium one day after putting up six in the first in a blowout win. "Last night, it got away from us early, and tonight, it got away from us late," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It was a solid game up until late in the game. We want these games to go through 27 outs where they're thinking about it."
The Padres used eight pitchers to try to stem the bleeding, but five of them yielded multiple runs, including Mike Ekstrom (0-1). Still, that type of experience pitching in a playoff atmosphere at Dodger Stadium was at least one positive Black could pick out amid the rubble of another blowout loss. "We're getting exposure to a lot of young players," Black said. "They're seeing what it's like to play against a team that's charging into the playoffs. It's good for them to be in a big league environment. So many of the guys you saw today on the mound and in the field are getting valuable experience in Major League games that they'll be better off for." Things looked good for the Padres in the middle of the fourth, when back-back doubles by Brian Giles and Adrian Gonzalez followed by a Nick Hundley RBI single put the club up, 2-0. Giles finished the contest 2-for-2 with two runs, an RBI and the fourth-inning double that was the 400th of his career. But things unraveled from there, starting in a two-run fourth that saw starter Shawn Estes pulled after yielding the two runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings. Still, Estes came away encouraged by the way he threw his curveball, something he feels may have been helped by tossing it during his bullpen session between starts, which he doesn't normally do. "The one thing that I felt good about tonight was that my curveball for the first time has been there all year," Estes said. "I haven't been consistent with it at all. Tonight, I had my curveball. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. I needed a lot more than that." Estes also felt good about his health, which has been an issue since undergoing elbow surgery in 2006, and he felt his fastball was as quick as it's been in a while, with Black saying it was clocked as high as 91 mph and consistently in the upper 80s. "Now, it's just a matter of getting command again, throwing the ball where I want to," Estes said. "I'm just missing, I'm not able to make the pitches when I have to right now, which is really frustrating. A pitch here and a pitch there in a ballgame makes a big difference, and I've always prided myself in making that big pitch when I had to, and I haven't been able to do that the last couple starts. "Even the times when I feel like I have made the right pitch it still hasn't been good results. It's been a little frustrating because the selection's right, the execution's right, but the result's not." Estes did not feel bad about the 2-0 changeup he threw to Nomar Garciaparra that the infielder knocked over the fence for Los Angeles' first run of the game in the fourth. Estes looked back at the pitch on video and determined it was a good pitch, although Garciaparra still managed to barrel it out of the yard. "Maybe it's the Dodgers' year, things are going their way for them, and that's what happens when you have a team that's confident like they are right now," Estes said. "Everybody runs to the plate with confidence, and they feed off each other. They definitely deserve to be where they're at right now. "If they can play like they are right now, I wouldn't put it past them to win the National League. They've got a good enough team to do that."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.