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ARI@LAD: Haren allows three runs over 6 1/3 frames

One team has been jockeying for first place. The other is trying to stay out of last.

When the Dodgers visit the Padres on Friday, it will be a matchup of two teams on opposite ends of the National League West spectrum. Once trailing the San Francisco Giants by 9 1/2 games, the Dodgers have rapidly made up ground, going into San Diego just four games out and fresh off of their first series sweep of 2014 against the Rockies, punctuated in electrifying fashion by Clayton Kershaw's no-hitter in Wednesday's finale.

"It tells you how fast things change, but also, there's no doubt you gain a little energy by creeping," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "It's almost like you're chasing somebody in a race. And you're getting closer, and it's motivating that you're getting closer.

"It's never motivating when that guy's running and you can't see him anymore."

At this point, the Padres are having a hard time seeing the Giants, having won just five games in the month of June, although they welcome the Dodgers having won two straight at home.

They'll look to turn things around with right-hander Ian Kennedy on the mound Friday. Kennedy is 5-5 with a 4.21 ERA in 12 career starts against the Dodgers and is 5-8 with a 3.72 ERA overall this season.

The Dodgers will counter with right-hander Dan Haren, who is 7-4 with a 3.54 ERA this season. Haren has struggled early in recent outings, particularly with the home run ball. He has allowed 10 home runs in his last seven starts -- with at least one in each.

"I was talking to Zack [Greinke] about why I struggle early," Haren said after his last start against the D-backs. "And he said maybe my off-speed stuff isn't as crisp early in the game and I should establish it more."

Regardless, Haren has kept the Dodgers within striking distance, and he even supplied the big hit in his last start, hitting a three-run double in a 6-4 win.

He'll look to keep the Dodgers rolling in San Diego, where they won two of three to spoil the Padres' season-opening series. They haven't met since.

"I just want us to play good baseball," Mattingly said. "Because that's really what leads to wins, is these guys playing hard and playing together and playing solid baseball, and that's really what we've been doing."

Padres: Yonder Alonso placed on DL
First baseman Yonder Alonso was placed on the disabled list Thursday with right hand tendinitis after missing the previous two games.

"It's a pretty strong case of tendinitis," Padres manager Bud Black said. "[But] from talking to our hand doctor, Dr. [Lorenzo] Pacelli, he thinks this can turn around very quickly. Hopefully the medicine will take effect quickly."

Alonso is hitting .210 with five home runs, 15 doubles and 22 RBIs in 229 at-bats this year. Prior to Tuesday, he had appeared in every game for San Diego since April 30.

"I think it's cumulative -- this wasn't a one-swing event," Black said. "Some days were better than others. A day off here and there sort of helped him. Overall it got to the point the last week or so that he just couldn't move the bat through the zone at the end of his swing."

In the meantime, the Padres are expected to split time between right-handed Tommy Medica and newly called-up Jake Goebbert, a lefty who'll be making his MLB debut in his first appearance.

Dodgers: Ellis' return boosts lineup
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis has been limited to just 20 games this season with a pair of stints on the disabled list. But since his return from a sprained right ankle on June 13, he's made his presence felt.

"It's very important," outfielder Matt Kemp said. "He's a very consistent hitter and a great catcher, and he helps our team a lot. Having him back is going to help us out tremendously."

Ellis has reached base in every game he's played since his return, and he said his time on the disabled list -- first with left knee surgery, then again with his ankle sprain -- has been a blessing in disguise.

"I got to do a lot of mental work when I was on the DL, kind of check out my swing, check out some things I was doing, some habits that were probably not correct," Ellis said.

"I give Mark McGwire a lot of credit for noticing those things and bringing them to my attention ... I used that time to really try to get back to swinging in the way I know I'm supposed to swing."

Worth noting
• The Dodgers' last homestand was their first with a winning record this season. They began it 13-19 at Dodger Stadium and finished 17-20.

• Entering play on Thursday, the Padres' bullpen was limiting opponents to a .199 batting average in the seventh inning or later, the lowest mark in MLB.

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