With Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp returning to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup at the same time after stints on the disabled list, the home crowd was buzzing with the anticipation of seeing at least one of them hit a home run.
They got one all right — albeit from another player in his first start at home in quite a while.
Mark Ellis, who hadn’t batted at Dodger Stadium since May 18, hit his third homer of the season to drive in both runs in a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on Friday night.
"It was really fun to get a big hit like that, especially in front of the home crowd," said Ellis, who missed 43 games because of an injured left leg before returning for a three-game road series leading into the All-Star break. "Sometimes you rely too much on your 3-4 hitters. But as long as everybody has good at-bats, everything will take care of itself and we’ll be fine."
Kemp was 2-for-4 with a double after missing 51 of the Dodgers’ previous 53 games because of a left hamstring strain. Ethier, sidelined since June 28 because of an oblique strain on his left side, was 0-for-2 and got hit by a pitch following a two-game rehab stint with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga during the All-Star break.
Ethier acknowledged how much impact Kemp batting behind Ellis had on his fateful at-bat.
"You can see what a difference it makes having a guy like Matty in that lineup to help the guys in front of him," Ethier said. "Tonight he had two hits, and you see how it changes the game when you see him on deck. So you’ve got to be around the zone more with Mark up because you don’t want to put another guy on base for Matt."
Clayton Kershaw (7-5) allowed a run, six hits and three walks over six difficult innings and struck out six. Last year’s NL Cy Young winner, who threw 27 pitches during his one-inning scoreless stint in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, worked with runners on base in every inning and stranded eight before he was lifted for a pinch hitter after 110 pitches with the Dodgers trailing 1-0.
"I didn’t want to get pinch-hit for. I wanted to keep going, obviously, but I understand the situation," Kershaw said. "I definitely threw more pitches in the All-Star Game than I would have liked, but I felt fine tonight.
"I felt like I was throwing my fastball pretty good, but I just threw too many pitches. Six innings and 110 pitches, that’s never what you want to do. But give them some credit. They had some good at-bats and had guys on base all night, so I had to continue to make pitches."
Tony Gwynn Jr. led off the sixth with a bunt single while batting for Kershaw, triggering the pivotal rally. Padres pitcher Clayton Richard knocked down a vicious line drive by Jerry Hairston Jr. and threw to second for the force on Gwynn. Ellis, who was batting in front of Kemp, then drove a 1-2 pitch just inside the left field pole.
"It should have been down, but it was up a little bit and he put a good swing on it," Richard said. "It’s disappointing to throw well and just come up a little bit short."
Javy Guerra and Ronald Belisario both pitched a scoreless inning and Kenley Jansen worked a hitless ninth for his 16th save in 19 attempts, helping the NL West-leading Dodgers send the Padres to their fourth straight loss following a season-high six-game winning streak.
Richard (6-10) allowed two runs and five hits in 7 1/3 innings, striking out two and walking none for the third time in four starts. The left-hander has allowed at least one homer in each of his last five outings.
"I just want to continue to progress and keep on getting better as a starting pitcher, get deep into games and give our team a chance to win," Richard said. "If you can do that, more often than not you’re going to come out on top. Unfortunately, tonight wasn’t one of those nights."
The Padres scratched out a run in the second after Yasmani Grandal led off with a bloop double to left-center that Kemp inadvertently kicked toward the infield after attempting to short-hop the ball. Grandal scored on a groundout by Everth Cabrera.
NOTES: The Dodgers are 24-12 this season when Kemp and Ethier are in the starting lineup, and 24-28 the rest of the time. They have homered in the same game twice, both against the Padres — a 6-1 win on April 14 and an 8-4 loss on April 8. … Last season after the All-Star break, Kershaw was 12-1 with a 1.31 ERA in 14 starts. … Richard’s only nine-inning complete game in the majors was at Los Angeles on Sept. 21, 2010, when he scattered eight hits in a 6-0 victory to mathematically eliminate the Dodgers from playoff contention. … Ethier is 3 for 25 lifetime against Richard. … Padres CF Cameron Maybin made a diving backhanded catch in left-center to rob Ellis of extra bases leading off the fifth. … Hairston became the fifth player the Dodgers have used in the leadoff spot, and he went 1 for 4. It was the first time he batted at the top of the order since July 28, 2011, for Washington. … Two-time Olympic Gold Medal-winning volleyball player Misty May Treanor threw a ceremonial first pitch to her husband, Dodgers C Matt Treanor. But before she did, she shook him off twice and then motioned for a new set of signs. … The Dodgers optioned OFs Elian Herrera and Scott Van Slyke to Triple-A Albuquerque to open up roster spots for Kemp and Ethier.