LOS ANGELES -- The first mistake was an errant pickoff. The second was an attempt to throw out a runner at home that sailed well over the cutoff man's head. And the third was a wild pitch.The Padres didn't have the best grip on the ball in a 4-1 loss to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night, when five effective innings from Kevin Correia were undone in a tie-breaking, three-run sixth. "I felt a lot better today compared to my last start," Correia said. "I felt back in rhythm. I felt like I threw the ball pretty well." Correia (4-4) was on target for the first five innings, allowing the Dodgers just one run, the same amount L.A. starter Clayton Kershaw allowed in his 7 1/3 innings. The Dodgers' sixth frame started with a single from Matt Kemp, who took second base on the first of the Padres' throwing mistakes. Correia's pickoff throw went well out of the reach of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and rebounded off the side railing. It was deja vu. In his last outing, on Saturday against the Dodgers, a Correia error on a pickoff throw ended with two Dodgers runs. Correia explained that he recently changed his default grip on the ball on the mound from a changeup to a split-finger.
A pitcher's initial grip on the mound tends to involve more complicated pitches instead of the fastball, because they don't want hitters to see them jostling around in their glove. That would give away to a hitter that an offspeed pitch is coming, and for most pitchers, switching from to an offspeed pitch to a fastball is a very quick motion hitters can't pick up. But Correia hasn't gotten comfortable doing it quickly enough yet to make pickoff throws."I just tried to go quick and I just didn't have the grip," Correia said. After a James Loney single, Correia appeared headed out of greater trouble when he struck out Casey Blake on a full-count breaking ball and Garret Anderson hit a sacrifice fly for a 2-1 Dodgers lead. But center fielder Chris Denorfia's throw home on Anderson's sac fly was too high to be cut off, and that allowed Loney to take second base with two out. Manager Bud Black made the decision to give the empty base to Blake DeWitt, who was 1-for-2 with a double and a lineout to the edge of the warning track. That brought up Jamey Carroll, who lightly punched a single into right field, scoring Loney and moving DeWitt to third. "It looked as though [DeWitt] was hitting the ball good against Kevin, that's all," Black said. "I thought that was just the thing to do. It wasn't like Carroll really knocked the crap out of that ball. He hit it 100 feet in between two defenders. "Carroll's killed me the last two starts," Correia said. "Every time he's got up there, he's done what he needed to do. ... I'm not a big fan of the guy at the moment." The Padres, at that point at least, had the opposing pitcher coming up. But on 0-1 to Kershaw, Correia bounced a curveball in the dirt and past catcher Yorvit Torrealba. DeWitt, on base by the free pass in the first place, scooted home for a 4-1 lead. "We manufactured those three runs," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "When you have a well-pitched ballgame you realize how important one run is. It's a bit easier to have a mindset of trying to score four or five and your swing gets bigger and stop being patient at the plate." Correia completed six innings and finished with four runs allowed on seven hits. He walked two and struck out four. Kershaw allowed no further runs on seven hits and two walks. He had seven strikeouts. The Padres had their chances throughout but were just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. Correia and Will Venable, in the leadoff spot for a second game in a row after flirting with the cycle on Wednesday, had singles leading off the fifth inning. But only one of the Padres' Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters was able to put the ball in play afterward, and all of them made out. David Eckstein flied out to left before Gonzalez, 2-for-19 with eight strikeouts against Kershaw in his career, went down swinging and Torrealba went down looking. Gonzalez went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts. Torrealba, 0-for-4, talked over the strike-three call with home-plate umpire Chris Guccione, who was also being barked at from the Dodgers dugout in the first inning. Torrealba didn't want to discuss any the umpires, but tipped his cap to Kershaw. "He's a guy throwing 95 but also has a good slider and changeup," Torrealba said. "All those pitches, he's been able to throw for a strike whenever he needs to. We have to give a lot of credit to him." Venable's single up the middle tied the game at 1 in the top of the third inning a half-inning after the Dodgers went ahead 1-0. Venable, 1-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts, was looking for Kershaw's fastball with Everth Cabrera on second and one out. "The whole day with him, I was just trying to disregard the slider, the fastball down is what I was looking for in that particular at-bat," Venable said. When Kershaw was pulled after Gonzalez's one-out single in the eighth, Torrealba and Oscar Salazar struck out consecutively on a total of seven pitches from reliever Ronald Belisario. Matt Stairs and Jonathan Broxton faced each other with two out and one on in the ninth inning. For Stairs, though, who struck out to end the game, the fact that he homered off Broxton in the 2008 National League Championship Series made no difference. "To me, it's just another at-bat," said Stairs, who was with the Phillies at the time. "What happened in the past happened in the past. I always said he's a great closer. ... I know he's going to come after me. I'm tired of answering the questions, and he's tired of answering the questions."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.