SAN DIEGO - The Los Angeles Dodgers let another game slip away and with it their playoff chances took another hit.
A ninth-inning rally fizzled, Josh Beckett lost for the third time in six starts with the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres used two big defensive plays to beat Los Angeles 2-1 on Tuesday night.
With one run in and runners on the corners with one out in the ninth, closer Huston Street struck out Andre Ethier and got Matt Kemp to fly out to right to leave the Dodgers frustrated again.
With eight games to play, the Dodgers are tied with Milwaukee, 4 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the NL's second wild-card spot. St. Louis beat Houston 4-0 and Cincinnati beat the Brewers 4-2.
The Dodgers have lost 20 of 32 games since they last held the lead in the NL West, on Aug. 19. With the Dodgers struggling, the San Francisco Giants ran away with the division, clinching the title Saturday night with an 8-4 win over the Padres.
"Every loss is a tough loss," Kemp said. "We had it again where we had a chance to win it. Beckett pitched another great game, the bullpen did great job and we couldn't score runs the way we should have. Kind of the same thing every time."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was frustrated because "again, we don't really do enough to win the game."
The Padres scratched out two runs against Beckett (1-3) and made two nice defensive plays. Left fielder Chris Denorfia threw out Shane Victorino at the plate in the second inning, and third baseman Chase Headley made a heads-up play that helped erase Kemp in the sixth, when the Dodgers failed to score after loading the bases with two outs.
Street got in and out of trouble in the ninth for his 23rd save in as many chances. Street allowed A.J. Ellis' RBI double to the gap in right-centre and then put runners on the corners with one out before striking out Ethier on a changeup and getting Kemp to fly out to right to end it.
Street was making his second appearance since coming off the disabled list.
"I'd like to put up a zero. My last two outings I've given up runs, but to be 2 for 2 after coming off the DL, I'll take it," he said.
The benches emptied briefly after San Diego's Everth Cabrera slid into second baseman Mark Ellis trying to break up a double play in the seventh. Order was quickly restored, with Kemp acting as a peacemaker, and both benches were warned.
San Diego's defence came up big.
Victorino singled to right with one out in the second, stole second and tried to score on Luis Cruz's single to left but was thrown out by Denorfia.
In the sixth, Kemp was hit by a pitch on the left arm by Edinson Volquez with one out and advanced on Adrian Gonzalez's single to centre. Headley ran in to bare-hand Hanley Ramirez's high chopper. Seeing he had no play at first, Headley turned and threw to shortstop Cabrera, who came over to cover the bag. Kemp had turned for home and Cabrera chased him down for the second out. Victorino walked before Cruz forced him at second to end the inning.
"It was just bad baserunning, man. That's all you can really say about that one," Kemp said.
"I think those were the difference in the game," Volquez said. "If they don't make those plays, it could have been a completely different game."
Beckett, 0-6 in his last seven road starts, allowed two runs, one earned, and five hits in 5 2-3 innings, struck out seven and walked two.
San Diego scored in the fourth and fifth innings, both after leadoff walks by Beckett.
Logan Forsythe walked leading off the fourth and took third on Headley's single to centre. Yasmani Grandal followed with an RBI groundout.
Will Venable opened the fifth with a walk and stole second. Beckett struck out Cameron Maybin and Volquez. Cabrera laid down a bunt single which Beckett fielded and threw past first baseman Gonzalez for an error, allowing Forsythe to score.
Volquez (11-11) allowed six hits in seven innings, struck out four and walked two.
NOTES: San Diego is 24-7 at home since July 17. ... Cruz had three hits for the Dodgers. ... Los Angeles first baseman Adrian Gonzalez played at Petco Park for the first time since he was traded from San Diego to Boston in December 2010. He was booed before each of his at-bats. Gonzalez, obtained in a blockbuster trade with Boston on Aug. 25, singled twice. Gonzalez was born in San Diego and was the No. 1 pick overall in the 2000 amateur draft, by Florida. ... Victorino set a career high with his 38th stolen base in the second inning. His previous best was 37 in 2007. ... Headley singled in the fourth for his career-high 162nd hit. His previous best was 161 last year. ... The series continues Wednesday afternoon when RHP Aaron Harang (9-10, 3.80) is scheduled to start for the Dodgers against LHP Clayton Richard (14-12, 3.81).