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LAD@SD: Headley powers a grand slam in the eighth

SAN DIEGO -- One way or another, Chase Headley was eventually going to get his first hit of the season.

Of course, the Padres third baseman would have preferred that it happened on Opening Day. But if that didn't occur, Friday would have been fine with him. Or, heck, even Saturday.

But when he went hitless in his first four plate appearances Sunday against the Dodgers, to extend his line of misery to 17 plate appearances without a hit, he found it almost comical.

"I was starting to wonder," Headley said. "When you start the season that way, you think, 'Did I forget how to do this?'"

Headley finally got that elusive first hit -- an eighth-inning grand slam -- and the Padres got their first win of the season, an 8-4 victory over the Dodgers in front of a crowd of 19,021 at Petco Park, where the Padres avoided matching the 1994 team that dropped four games to start the season.

"We averted disaster," Headley said.

That sounds ominous enough, especially this early in the season, though the last thing the Padres wanted to do was go into Monday's off-day trying to reconcile four losses at the hands of the Dodgers before starting a series Tuesday against the defending National League West champion D-backs.

"The first three games didn't go our way, through some fault of our own," said San Diego manager Bud Black.

More things certainly did Sunday, as the Padres got seven efficient innings from starting pitcher Clayton Richard, who made his first start since July 4 of last season. He later had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and passed all tests in Spring Training on his way to his first start.

Richard allowed two runs (both unearned) on two hits over seven innings and became the first starting pitcher in the rotation to pitch six or more innings, giving the bullpen a breather after Saturday's 11-inning loss.

"His pitch count was in the 80s and I actually debated on running him back out there," Black said, noting that Richard threw 83 pitches through seven innings. "But with Clayton, I wanted to think long term and not push it. It worked out."

Richard allowed a two-run home run to Matt Kemp in the sixth inning, but those runs were unearned after right fielder Will Venable made an error trying to track down a Mark Ellis fly ball. How did Richard come back from that? By throwing just six pitches in the seventh inning to get three outs.

"I was just throwing strikes early in the count," he said. "With their lineup, you don't want to fall behind to these guys. The more pitches they see, the better they hit."

San Diego got two runs in the first inning off Aaron Harang, the San Diego native who pitched for his hometown team last season. John Baker drove in a run in the third inning before rookie second baseman Andy Parrino hit his first Major League home run in the fourth.

Parrino's home run comes following a spring where he hit a team-best five home runs, though Black said power wasn't the determining factor to his inclusion on the 25-man roster for Opening Day.

"I don't see Andy Parrino as a prolific home run hitter," Black said. "But he takes an aggressive swing. ... For a guy who doesn't look the part, he has surprising power."

Speaking of power, that brings us to Headley, who vowed late in the 2011 season that he wanted to be more of a run producer in 2012. But through the first three games of the regular season and four plate appearances Sunday, he was 0-for-12 with six strikeouts.

He then swung hard over a slider from Dodgers reliever Scott Elbert in the eighth inning before he got a fastball out over the plate, driving into the second deck in left field, turning a 4-2 advantage into an 8-2 lead.

"That gave us a little breathing room," Black said of Headley's second career grand slam.

And, if nothing else, the first real opportunity to leave the ballpark feeling satisfied. As Black has said -- often -- that when these kind of slumps and losing skids happen in the middle of the season, few take notice. But at the start of a 162-game season, there's no hiding from it.

"It was fun ... winning baseball games is fun," Richard said. "We'll move forward now with a smile on our face today."

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