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Padres again stymied by Dodgers' Buehler

MLB.com @AJCassavell

LOS ANGELES -- The Padres fashioned seven excellent innings out of three long relievers Sunday afternoon. They didn't fashion enough offense to make it count.

Right-hander Walker Buehler was dominant for seven frames in a 6-1 Dodgers victory. Buehler wasn't quite in no-hit form, as he was earlier this month against San Diego. But he continued to make his case as the National League's top rookie -- a night after Christian Villanueva did so by going deep twice for the Padres.

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LOS ANGELES -- The Padres fashioned seven excellent innings out of three long relievers Sunday afternoon. They didn't fashion enough offense to make it count.

Right-hander Walker Buehler was dominant for seven frames in a 6-1 Dodgers victory. Buehler wasn't quite in no-hit form, as he was earlier this month against San Diego. But he continued to make his case as the National League's top rookie -- a night after Christian Villanueva did so by going deep twice for the Padres.

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With a chance to make a statement in the NL West this weekend, San Diego dropped two of three at Dodger Stadium. Still, the Padres finished their 10-game trip -- through Pittsburgh, Washington and Los Angeles -- with a 5-5 mark. A much friendlier 10-game homestand, against the last-place Marlins, the last-place Reds and the first-place Braves, awaits.

"You don't walk away from that .500 road trip upset about the way it played out," said Padres manager Andy Green.

Buehler struck out eight Friars and allowed four hits over seven innings. The Padres, meanwhile, called upon four relief pitchers Sunday afternoon while they await Joey Lucchesi's return from a right hip strain.

Video: SD@LAD: Buehler K's 8 and allows 1 run in 7 innings

Matt Strahm didn't learn he'd be starting until his postgame lifting program was interrupted by fellow reliever Craig Stammen on Saturday night. Stammen informed Strahm, "We're whole-staffing it tomorrow."

So Strahm cut his workout short and was promptly called into the manager's office. The next afternoon, he made his first start for San Diego and worked two scoreless innings.

During Spring Training, the club mulled extending Strahm into a starter. But the workload on his surgically repaired left knee was too much, and he landed in the 'pen. There's still a chance he returns to the rotation in the future, and he was sharp Sunday -- albeit in just one trip through the order.

Video: SD@LAD: Padres turn strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out DP

"I'm open to them both, and I enjoy them both," Strahm said of starting and relieving.

The Dodgers broke through against righty Adam Cimber, scoring twice in the third. Cimber allowed hits to the first three batters he faced, as Los Angeles scored twice in the third. Kazuhisa Makita, another rookie sidearmer, followed with three perfect frames.

Trailing by one in the eighth, Green called on lefty Tyler Webb, who coughed up two-run homers to Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger, putting the game out of reach.

Video: SD@LAD: Bellinger smashes a 2-run homer to center

"The plan worked how we wanted it to from a pitching standpoint," Green said. "You've got a one-run game going into the seventh and the eighth. If you tie that thing up, you go to your leverage guys, and things turn out a little bit differently. But you can't run out Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates and Brad Hand every time you're down a run, or those guys won't have any gas left in the tank."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Maki's best: Green called Makita's three perfect frames Sunday "the best Maki's been for us." It's hard to argue. This season has been a grind for the 33-year-old righty who spent the past seven years with the Seibu Lions in Japan. He owns a 6.14 ERA and was optioned to Triple-A for a brief stint earlier this month. But Makita feels as though he's benefitting from an adjustment with his balance to use his lower half more. He struck out three, including two left-handed hitters in Muncy and Chase Utley.

Video: SD@LAD: Makita strikes out Utley swinging to end 7th

Turning three: The Padres haven't turned a triple play since 2010, but they came inches from doing so Sunday afternoon during a frantic play in the bottom of the third. With men on the corners, Justin Turner hit a chopper to third base. Villanueva looked Chris Taylor back to the bag before starting an around-the-horn double play. But Taylor broke from third when Villanueva released his throw. Taylor slid in safely at the plate, just ahead of Raffy Lopez's tag, and the Dodgers led, 2-0.

Video: SD@LAD: Taylor beats the throw at the plate in 3rd

SOUND SMART
Jose Pirela's 209 at-bats without a homer this season are the most among all Major Leaguers. He came a few feet shy in the first inning Sunday, notching a double off the glove of Dodgers left fielder Matt Kemp. Still, Pirela pounded out three hits to boost his average to .282 and his wRC+ to 100. He's essentially been a league-average hitter, despite the lack of pop.

"He's played the game well," Green said. "The power has been the one elusive thing for him this year. As he continues to square up baseballs, it's going to come back."

A season ago, Pirela hit 10 homers in 3 1/2 months with the big league club.

UP NEXT
The Padres could sure use a lengthy outing from left-hander Eric Lauer when they face the Marlins at 1:10 p.m. PT on Monday. Lauer pitched six innings of one-run ball in Washington last week, but the 22-year-old rookie is still looking for a measure of consistency. The Marlins counter with lefty Caleb Smith in the first game of a four-game set.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Kazuhisa Makita, Matt Strahm