A.J. Ellis hit a two-run homer and Chad Billingsley made a successful return to the mound, as the Los Angeles Dodgers edged the San Diego Padres, 4-3, to take the middle test of a three-game series at Petco Park.
Billingsley (1-0) made his first start since Aug. 24 of last season, when he suffered a partially torn ligament in his elbow. An index finger injury in spring training put him on the disabled list to start the 2013 campaign, but the right-hander tossed an effective six innings of one-run ball, allowing just five hits.
"It definitely felt great to be back out there," said Billingsley. "(Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford) gets us a one-run lead and gave me a little cushion early."
Crawford went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and a triple, while Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp, Luis Cruz and Justin Sellers each had two hits for the Dodgers. Brandon League worked around a shaky ninth inning to pick up his third save.
The Padres, who broke out of their scoring slump with a 9-3 win in the series opener, struggled offensively all game until plating two runs in the ninth. Chris Denorfia went 2-for-5 with an RBI and Will Venable drove in a run in the setback.
Former Dodger Eric Stultz (1-1) was charged with the loss. He gave up four runs on eight hits in five innings.
"It's still early, but you don't like to see this," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We're going to keep an eye on this. We need to get some length out of our starters."
League gave up a double to Nick Hundley and then after recording the second out, allowed Everth Cabrera to reach with a base hit. Venable then made it 4-2 with a single and Ellis' passed ball brought Cabrera home, but League got Yonder Alonso to fly out to end the game.
Crawford quickly provided Billingsley with some support by launching a solo homer into left to start the game. An inning later, Ellis increased the cushion to 3-0 with a a two-run blast.
Billingsley had little trouble getting through the first three innings, but a leadoff walk to Venable in the fourth came back to bite him.
Denorfia sprayed a double into the right-center field gap, and Venable came all the way around to score to get the Padres on the board. Jedd Gyorko, though, hit into a double-play two batters later and Alexi Amarista flied out to end the inning.
The Dodgers restored their three-run edge in the fifth when Crawford hit a one-out triple and scored on a base hit up the middle from Mark Ellis.
After Billingsley was taken out after six innings, Ronald Belisario and Kenley Jansen each tossed a scoreless inning of work.
The Dodgers were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, while the Padres finished 2-for-11 ... Los Angeles will send Zack Greinke to the hill to face San Diego's Jason Marquis in the rubber match on Thursday.