LOS ANGELES -- From the time he recorded his first out on Friday night, Clayton Richard did what Clayton Richard does. He gobbled up innings -- allowing his share of baserunners, but keeping the Padres within striking distance. In the process, he worked his fourth straight start of at least
LOS ANGELES -- From the time he recorded his first out on Friday night, Clayton Richard did what Clayton Richard does. He gobbled up innings -- allowing his share of baserunners, but keeping the Padres within striking distance. In the process, he worked his fourth straight start of at least six innings.
The difference in the 4-1 loss at Dodger Stadium? Richard labored quite a bit for that first out. In his previous three starts, the veteran left-hander walked a total of one hitter. He walked the first two batters he faced in this one, setting the stage for a familiar foe in Matt Kemp.
The former Padres outfielder demolished a 1-2 fastball from Richard into the left-center-field seats, giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. The slumping San Diego offense never recovered.
"I have a unique opportunity to set a tone for a game and a series, and the first two at-bats were not executed," Richard said. "That's pretty disappointing to put a team in a hole right out of the gate."
Kemp has crushed Padres pitching this season. He's 15-for-26 with four of his six homers coming against San Diego.
Perhaps a slider at Kemp's feet would've been a better pitch selection. Still, Richard threw his fastball letter-high, precisely where he wanted it. After the game, Richard was clearly more perturbed by the two walks than the first-inning blast.
"You have to tip your cap every now and then," Richard said. "He put a pretty good swing on a pretty good pitch. If that's a solo home run, that's a different game. Where I look at what I can do better is those first two at-bats."
Opposite Richard, Thomas Stripling recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts, using his offspeed pitches to entice San Diego hitters into routinely chasing outside the strike zone.
The Padres put two men on base with one out in the first, before Franchy Cordero bounced into an inning-ending double play. The rest of the night, the Padres wouldn't put two runners on base in the same frame.
As for Richard, he was mostly effective aside from his rocky first inning. He allowed four runs on four hits while striking out four.
"After he got past those first three batters, he was good," said Padres manager Andy Green. "The damage was already done. But we didn't do enough offensively against Stripling to win a baseball game anyway."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Movin' Manny: With one out in the third inning, Manuel Margot hit a chopper down the first-base line. Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig initially appeared to have a play on Margot, who was hustling toward second. But he bobbled the ball, then, in a moment of frustration, allowed it to sit on the warning track untouched. Margot capitalized, taking third base easily and scoring two batters later on Travis Jankowski's RBI groundout.
Hernandez responds: The Padres had clawed one run closer thanks to Margot's hustle. Enrique Hernandez negated that run in no time. With two outs in the bottom of the frame, Richard grooved a 3-1 fastball, and Hernandez took it the other way into the right-field pavilion. Richard hadn't allowed a homer in any of his last three starts. He allowed two in the first three innings on Friday.
Richard's success this season has been limited to games against teams outside his division. In six starts against National League West opposition, he owns a 7.80 ERA, and the Padres have won only once. Meanwhile, Richard has quality starts in all five outings against teams from the East and Central, and he owns a 2.68 ERA in those games.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Christian Villanueva's defense has come under some scrutiny this season, but the Padres remain bullish on his future as a third baseman. They're especially optimistic about his range, and the rookie slugger showed it off in the sixth inning on Friday. Villanueva made an all-out dive to his right, snaring a Hernandez chopper. He sprang to his feet and fired to first for the out -- arguably his best play as a Padre.
I'M YELLING CIMBER
For the season's first month and a half, Padres right-hander Adam Cimber found himself among the NL leaders in appearances. Entering Friday, however, he hadn't pitched in eight days and had made just one appearance in 13.
"Mentally, it's better to be out there in a game situation as often as possible," Cimber said. "But we've been in situations the last week where our starters are going six or seven innings and we've got our dudes at the back of our bullpen getting us wins. But it definitely felt good to get in there."
Cimber made quick work of the Dodgers in the seventh inning, needing only six pitches to retire the side in order. The Padres are slated for a bullpen game Sunday, and Cimber remains a candidate to start. In fact, his six-pitch tuneup on Friday might make him the favorite to start -- barring more work for him on Saturday.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Jordan Lyles has become one of the Padres' most reliable starters, helping to solidify the back end of their rotation. He followed his perfect-game bid last week with 5 2/3 solid innings in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Lyles takes the ball Saturday against the Dodgers, with first pitch slated for 7:10 p.m. PT. Los Angeles counters with lefty Alex Wood, a San Diego nemesis since his accusations of sign-stealing sparked a benches-clearing incident last June.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.