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SD@LAD: Gwynn makes the grab in the ninth to seal it

LOS ANGELES -- For a fleeting moment Friday, the bad karma, bad luck and bad performances from a miserable three-week stretch of baseball by the Padres looked like it might blissfully dissolve with one swing of the bat.

At least, that's what Nick Hundley was thinking.

It was the Padres' catcher who squared up a first-pitch slider from Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton with two on and two out in the ninth inning, sending what even manager Bud Black considered a "bullet" toward left field.

"I thought that I hit a double," Hundley said. "I thought we were going to win, 4-3."

Instead, in what qualifies as a cruel twist of irony, former Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn, who entered the game in the eighth inning, made a diving catch to preserve the Dodgers' 3-2 victory over the Padres before a crowd of 36,870 at Dodger Stadium.

"I would love to say I'm surprised [Gwynn] made that play," Hundley said. "But I saw him make it the last two years."

The Padres, who came into the game ranked last in the Major Leagues in several offensive categories, had three two-out singles off Broxton in the ninth inning, including one from Orlando Hudson, an opposite-field single to left, that allowed Will Venable to score.

Hundley got his chance to hit after Chase Headley sent Hudson to third base with a single between first and second. Instead of waiting on a 96-mph fastball from Broxton, Hundley opted to jump on a slider right away.

Gwynn, the son of the Hall of Famer by the same name, ranged to his right and made a diving grab about 15 feet from the left-field line as the crowd erupted.

"We've seen that before from him," said Padres hitting coach Randy Ready. "It was the right move to have him in the game."

While a Major League-leading seven shutouts have been painful for the Padres, this loss to the Dodgers (14-13) might have stung a little more, given the way it ended and the opportunities San Diego was presented with.

The Padres (9-17), who were held to two or fewer runs for the seventh time in their past eight games, looked close to breaking through offensively on several occasions -- they had baserunners in seven of the nine innings.

The leadoff hitter reached base in each of the first four innings, but San Diego managed just one run -- a Hundley single in the third. That the Padres hit into three double plays certainly stymied some chances to score, as well as Dodgers starter Ted Lilly's ability to wiggle out of trouble.

"Teddy does what he always does. He's going to keep changing [speeds] and giving you different looks," Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said of Lilly, who yielded one run in six innings.

Hundley, who entered the game 0-for-13 with nine strikeouts against Lilly, fouled off four pitches in a nine-pitch at-bat to get a curveball that he hit down the left-field line to plate Hundley.

"He fouled off some high fastballs, good breaking balls and hit a curve that he snuck by [Juan] Uribe," Black said. "That was a good at-bat."

There were other good at-bats Friday, and the Padres made the Dodgers pitchers work. They took pitches and were more discerning than they have been during this stretch that has seen them drop 13 of 18 games.

"We've got to work the count and get back to our game," Ready said.

The Dodgers took the lead for good in the fourth inning when Uribe hit a home run off Padres starter Clayton Richard (1-2), who allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings. That lead grew to 3-1 when reliever Ernesto Frieri gave up a solo home run to Matt Kemp in the seventh inning.

That set up a wild ninth for Broxton, who had, on occasion, struggled against the Padres. The inning started innocently enough, as Ryan Ludwick struck out and Jorge Cantu grounded out to shortstop.

But Venable, who entered the game in the seventh inning, lifted a soft single that fell in front of Andre Ethier, who doubled in the fifth inning and extended his hitting streak to 25 games.

The switch-hitting Hudson, batting left-handed, bounced a ball into left field that allowed Venable -- who moved to second base on defensive indifference -- to score. Headley then turned on a 93-mph fastball, pulling it into the hole on the right side to set up Hundley's at-bat.

Gwynn, who drove in the go-ahead run in an 11-inning victory over the Padres on April 8, said he had an idea what to expect in that final inning.

"Playing with them the last year and a half, I've got a pretty good sense what they're going to do," Gwynn said. "I originally thought it would hook more, but it stayed straight and gave me a better chance to catch it.

"They put you in for defensive purposes, you're supposed to play defense. I got a good read on it." Comments