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Dodgers nearly let another lead slip away, but get past Padres 4-2

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SAN DIEGO - Same pitcher, different approach, and the Los Angeles Dodgers and pitcher Josh Beckett couldn't be happier.

"Josh was good, and it was a lot of the same thing," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Keeping guys off-balanced."

Beckett's reinvention continued Saturday night in the Dodgers' 4-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

His lively right arm which once produced one fastball after another has found new life by easing up.

"It's a little easier the other way, but it's been good," Beckett said. "I'm locating my curveball, too. It's not like I'm throwing curveballs down the middle. I'm back-dooring them to lefties and getting them away to righties and getting them out front."

Beckett (5-4) pitched seven strong innings, and Hanley Ramirez drove in two runs.

Beckett, in his first start against San Diego this year, allowed four hits and two walks. No Padres reached second base, and San Diego never had more than one runner on base at a time against him.

Kenley Jansen pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 21st save in 24 chances, one night after allowing three runs for the loss.

Tyson Ross (6-7) worked seven innings for San Diego.

But the story was Beckett working over the Padres' hitters.

"(Beckett) had that tantalizing curveball all night long, all different counts," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He kept it down in the strike zone and he was throwing it for a called strike right at the knee. He threw enough fastballs to keep us honest."

Beckett continued his stellar work against NL West teams, tying a season-high with eight strikeouts and lowering his ERA to 1.40 against divisional foes.

"The way I pitch is different," said Beckett, who is 4-1 on the road with a no-hitter and a 1.88 ERA. "I never really felt like I had to give in."

Becket had plenty of praise for Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, who reached base three times and scored two runs.

"Any time he gets on base our chances of scoring go way up," Beckett said. "He's special over there."

Los Angeles, which collapsed in the ninth inning of a loss on Friday night, has won six of eight and nine of 12.

Mattingly said it was important to see Jensen return successfully after his meltdown.

"That closer has to be able to clean the slate," Mattingly said. "You see them over the years, and guys are going to give up runs. That is just the way it is.

"The key is to bounce back, and that has where Kenley has been pretty good. I think he has grown up into this role, to be able to clear the mind and go back out there the next day."

Ross delivered a solid effort in his first start since walking seven in a loss at Seattle. He allowed three runs, two earned, and six hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Ross was again done in by the Padres' weak offence, which failed to score him a run for the fourth straight outing. In five of Ross' last seven starts, the Padres have produced nothing offensively.

Beckett kept the Padres baffled with an assortment of offspeed pitches. He improved to 6-2 in nine career starts against him.

The Dodgers took a 4-0 edge in the eighth inning on Adrian Gonzalez's run-scoring single.

Ramirez put the Dodgers ahead 3-0 in the fifth inning. He lined a single to left to extend his hitting streak to nine games and score Justin Turner. With runners on the corners, Ross retired Yasiel Puig on a grounder to shortstop.

The Dodgers broke the scoreless tie in the third on Gordon's single, which scored Drew Butera after he opened the inning with a single. Gordon then stole his major league best 39th base and took third on second baseman Jace Peterson's error.

Matt Kemp's sacrifice fly scored Gordon to give the Dodgers had a 2-0 lead.

Kemp's hitting streak reached nine games when he singled in the sixth.

NOTES: Puig was in the starting lineup after leaving Friday's game with a strained left hip muscle. ... INF Juan Uribe (strained right hamstring) could rejoin the team for Sunday's series finale. . Padres 3B Chase Headley (back) is expected to avoid the DL. With Headley sidelined, Rivera is taking ground balls at third. ... Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (8-3, 3.13) faces Padres LHP Eric Stults (2-9, 5.76) on Sunday.

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