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Padres head home after finale loss

Padres drop finale to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Officially, the chasm between the first-place Dodgers and the sinking Padres is 6 1/2 games, which is by no means an insurmountable hurdle to overcome given it's May 3 and, well, these two teams don't meet again for another month.

But even while the Padres, to a man Sunday, maintained they're a much better team than the one that was swept in a four-game series here at Dodger Stadium, it's evident that the difference between these two teams isn't negligible.

"They ambushed me," Padres starting pitcher Chad Gaudin said, referring to the three-run first inning that lifted the Dodgers to a 7-3 victory over San Diego on a sun-splashed day.

But Gaudin could have easily been talking about the events of a lost weekend in which the fast-starting Padres have officially fallen back to Earth with the resounding thud of missed offensive opportunities prevalent throughout the series.

"Part of the frustration for us is that we had a chance to win two, maybe three games," San Diego third baseman Edgar Gonzalez said. "But the Dodgers got the big hits. We didn't."

That's really what the series came down to and, really, a prevalent reason why the Padres have gone from a surprising leader at 9-3 to a team that is now 11-14 and encumbered with a five-game losing streak heading back to PETCO Park.

Lonely bus ride, anyone?

The Padres were just 4-for-29 with runners in scoring position in this series, including a 1-for-4 mark on Sunday, when scoring opportunities weren't many with Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley (5-0) on the mound.

The Dodgers gave Billingsley a nice cushion in the first inning when they raced out to a 3-0 lead as the first four hitters reached base on eight pitches.

"They were aggressive," Gaudin said.

That's right: Eight pitches into the game and the Dodgers had a 3-0 lead thanks to an RBI double from Orlando Hudson, another RBI double by Andre Ethier and then an RBI single by James Loney.

"From about his fifth pitch to his 93rd pitch, Chad pitched pretty good," Padres manager Bud Black said of Gaudin, who settled down and didn't allow a run until the sixth inning. "Chad got a couple of fastballs in the middle of the plate and they jumped on him."

The Dodgers, who rested four regulars Sunday, including Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin, added four more runs in the sixth inning against Gaudin and reliever Arturo Lopez, who allowed the two runners he inherited to score.

"You saw a lot of misses on his slider to right-handed hitters," Black said. "He had a good slider and what he calls his changeup. We were in the game until the sixth."

Three of the hits in that sixth inning were of the blooper variety, but they still dropped in nonetheless. That Lopez couldn't get out of the inning, even though there were two outs, didn't take all the shine off of Gaudin's start.

"They're a good team, but they're beatable," Black said of the Dodgers. "Their overall lineup is strong. They've got a nice balance, speed and average."

The Padres haven't shown much of any of those elements lately, especially during this 1-6 road trip that started in Colorado. The team batting average has slipped to .243 and the on-base percentage (.321) isn't anywhere the Padres want it.

Collectively, this bunch struck out nine times Sunday and scored two runs on two swings late in the game on home runs by Brian Giles and Jody Gerut.

The Padres' best opportunity to break through against Billingsley came in the sixth inning when they loaded the bases on a single by David Eckstein and then consecutive walks to Chase Headley and Gonzalez.

But Billingsley bore down on catcher Nick Hundley, striking him out on three pitches -- including two nasty sliders to finish the at-bat.

"You can see guys are pressing a little bit and aren't in a total relaxed mode," Black said. "They're not doing what they're capable of."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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