LOS ANGELES -- There's no disputing that little has gone right for these Padres so far in 2012, a team that has been slowed by porous defense, a spotty offense and a pitching staff that hasn't pounded the strike zone nearly as much as they have in previous seasons.
But for a fleeting moment Sunday, it appeared the Padres were in a position for a big ninth inning, which could have allowed them to, at least for a few hours, forget their sluggish start and enjoy a flight to Denver where they will begin a three-game series on Monday.
Only it didn't work out that way as, in a cruel twist of fate, the Padres seemingly promising two-on, no-out situation turned into an unlikely triple play that erased the potentially big inning under the guise of frustration and confusion.
"The whole play looked funky," said Padres manager Bud Black.
Minutes later, the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the Padres when Dee Gordon lined a ball to left field the score the winning run in a 5-4 victory before a crowd of 38,359 at Dodger Stadium.
All of this on a day where the Padres erased a three-run deficit against reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
And still lost.
The point of debate from the Padres' side was the call that led to the triple play, as Jesus Guzman was charged with dropping down a sacrifice bunt with no outs in the top of the inning and with Yonder Alonso at second base and Chase Headley at first.
But when Javy Guerra threw a fastball up and in on Guzman, he attempted to pull his bat back as he leaned back in the box. The ball glanced off Guzman's bat and dropped into foul territory as plate umpire Dale Scott raised his arms and, in the words of Guzman after, called it a foul ball.
"I heard him say it," Guzman said.
But the ball didn't stay foul as it trickled out in front of the plate where catcher A.J. Ellis picked it up and started an unlikely 2-5-6-3 triple play. Seeing this, Alonso raised his arms as did Headley, as he waved them frantically to indicate that he hadn't attempted to advance because he saw Scott raise his arms.
"He was waving, not once, but twice. To me, that means it's a 'foul ball.' What are we supposed to do?" Headley said. "From my vantage point, we did what we [baserunners] were supposed to do.
"It's just a crazy thing."
Black and third-base coach Glenn Hoffman converged on Scott, who huddled with the base umpires for a few minutes before standing by his ruling -- fair ball, triple play, inning over. Black stayed to argue before he was ejected. He retreated to the clubhouse to watch the play on video.
"I didn't hear anything from the umpire behind me and I was just kind of waiting to make sure the ball was fair and I just started throwing it around the infield," Ellis said.
Black's argument was the same one Headley, Alonso and Guzman held: When Scott raised his arms, the play should have been called dead right then and there.
"There was some confusion for our baserunners," Black said. "I saw the hands go up. Our impression was that it was a foul ball."
Scott spoke to a pool reporter after the game, though he wasn't asked directly about the movement he made with his arms right after the point where the ball hit Guzman's bat.
"I heard bat. I moved out of the way of the catcher, and now, all of a sudden, I have two bodies in front of me [Ellis and Guzman]," Scott said. "I didn't see where the ball was. I saw it trickle in front of the plate. Without having seen it hit, I have to assume that's a fair ball."
The Padres (2-8) saw it differently, but Alonso said afterwards that coming out on the short end of the triple play shouldn't be something the team carries with it to Denver as the Padres' parade of games against National League West teams continues.
"We had opportunities. It's not fair to the umpires. They're human like us," Alonso said. "There were 27 outs. We did have chances."
Especially after the Padres were able to get Kershaw out of the game during a three-run sixth inning that erased a 4-1 deficit.
Kershaw, who allowed eight hits, the most he's ever allowed against the Padres, began the sixth inning by walking Guzman and Nick Hundley. Will Venable, who had two hits, then moved both runners up 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt.
Kershaw then walked Andy Parrino to load the bases. Orlando Hudson, who earlier in the game hit into a double play with two on, drilled a ball in the hole that Gordon couldn't corral. Hudson was given a hit and an RBI, and Kershaw's day was done.
The Padres then sent Jeremy Hermida to the plate to face Dodgers reliever Josh Lindblom. Hermida fouled off seven pitches in a 10-pitch at-bat before hitting a two-run single to left field to tie the game.
"Great at-bat from Hermida," Black said.
The three-run inning got the Padres back in the game and took pitcher Edinson Volquez off the hook for the loss. Volquez walked five and allowed four runs in six hits in five innings. He allowed two runs in the first inning and two more in the second inning, one coming on Matt Kemp's home run.
Kemp has six home runs this season, all coming against the Padres, who are off to their worst start since 1994 when they started the season 1-9. None of the previous losses featured this sort of unkind twist, though.
"Things in the first 10 games have not gone our way," Black said. "We've been in close games that have hinged on a few plays late in the game.
"But our players know how they need to play and know that we're not playing that way right now."