And, now, they're sharing the ride with two other division rivals.
San Diego, which clutched a 6 1/2-game lead on Aug. 26, sits a half-game back of the first-place Giants, also in a battle with the surging Rockies. Losers of seven of their last 11 and 17 of 24, the Padres are in a must-win situation every time they take the field.
Tuesday's series opener against the Dodgers in Los Angeles is no exception.
"We're in a position to continue to make this a great race," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Our guys will all come out ready to play on Tuesday."
The Dodgers -- who saw much of their weekend overshadowed by the announcement that manager Joe Torre will step down at season's end, to be replaced by hitting coach Don Mattingly -- will look to play spoiler, just a year removed from their last playoff trip.
"I don't think anybody quit," Torre said. "I'm sure the regulars are frustrated and disappointed, but nobody is showing up late or straggling in like it's an imposition for them."
The Dodgers will have more than one formidable challenge in facing a solid Padres lineup that relies heavily on execution. Few in the San Diego dugout have done it better recently than outfielder Will Venable, who has lifted his batting average from .219 (on Sept. 7) to .244 in the last 11 games.
The outfielder has hit safely in eight of his last 11 games with an at-bat. Over that stretch, he has six multi-hit games and is hitting .484 (16-for-33).
"He's playing great," Black said of Venable, who went 10-for-15 in the three-game set against St Louis. "It's great to see this time of year. We need all of our guys to play well. He's working on his swing and letting the game come to him. He's playing the game with a great deal of energy."
Padres: Gregerson ties MLB holds mark
Reliever Luke Gregerson recorded his 36th hold of the season Saturday and is tied for the Major League record for holds in a season. He is tied with Scott Linebrink (2006 with the Padres) and Tom Gordon (2004 with the Yankees). ... Monday is the Padres' final off-day this season. ... Southpaw Clayton Richard will get the nod on Tuesday, after allowing a season-high eight runs on 11 hits against the Rockies in his last time out.
Dodgers: Billingsley takes on Padres
Chad Billingsley will be the next starter charged with slowing Venable. The right-hander fell on hard luck in his last outing, taking the loss against the Giants, despite a seven-inning, one-run performance. He's 2-2 with a 2.55 ERA in four starts against San Diego. ... He has lost three of his last four starts without allowing more than four runs.
Outfielder Matt Kemp is the only Dodgers player to have appeared in all 150 games this season and also has the longest active consecutive-games streak in the big leagues (191 games). ... Reliever Octavio Dotel, who made 19 appearances with the Dodgers this season, made his first appearance with the Rockies on Sunday -- against the Dodgers. He struck out Casey Blake to end the seventh inning. ... The Padres have already clinched their first winning season since 2007 and the 14th in franchise history.
Tue, 9/21 10:10 PM ET
Padres keep pace with Richard's first shutout
Clayton Richard tossed his first career shutout as the Padres remained a half-game back for the NL West lead while the Dodgers, mathematically eliminated from a playoff bid, were blanked for the 17th time.
|Tejada, M, SS||5||1||1||0||0||0||5||.267|
|Gonzalez, Ad, 1B||2||2||1||0||3||0||0||.307|
|Johnson, Re, LF||4||0||1||0||0||1||2||.275|
|Ellis, A, C||3||0||2||0||0||1||1||.287|
2B: Gonzalez, Ad (32, Billingsley).
TB: Venable; Eckstein; Tejada, M; Gonzalez, Ad 2; Ludwick; Headley; Denorfia.
RBI: Ludwick 4 (68), Torrealba (35), Headley (56).
2-out RBI: Ludwick 3; Headley.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Ludwick 2; Denorfia; Tejada, M.
Team RISP: 2-for-8.
Team LOB: 8.
DP: 3 (Tejada, M-Eckstein-Gonzalez, Ad, Eckstein-Tejada, M-Gonzalez, Ad 2).
TB: Furcal; Carroll 2; Blake; Loney; Johnson, Re; Ellis, A 2.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Kemp 2.
GIDP: Ethier; Lindsey; Johnson, Re.
Team RISP: 0-for-5.
Team LOB: 7.
IBB: Gonzalez, Ad (by Billingsley), Gonzalez, Ad (by Troncoso).
HBP: Eckstein (by Billingsley), Ludwick (by Billingsley).
Pitches-strikes: Richard 105-71, Billingsley 90-54, Monasterios 38-26, Troncoso 28-16.
Groundouts-flyouts: Richard 11-5, Billingsley 7-1, Monasterios 0-1, Troncoso 5-0.
Batters faced: Richard 34, Billingsley 26, Monasterios 7, Troncoso 8.
Umpires: HP: Bill Miller. 1B: Chad Fairchild. 2B: Eric Cooper. 3B: Mike Reilly.
Weather: 65 degrees, partly cloudy.
Wind: 3 mph, Out to CF.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media