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Josh Beckett masterful as Dodgers top Padres

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO -- Josh Beckett continued his superb season with seven scoreless innings to lead the Dodgers over the Padres 4-2 on Saturday night at Petco Park.

Beckett allowed only four hits and two walks while matching his season high with eight strikeouts. Beckett has not allowed a run in his last three road starts, totaling 22 innings, and in that span has allowed a total of six hits and six walks, with 21 strikeouts.

His curveball - thrown 30.8% of the time entering Saturday, more often than any point in his career - has been his most effective weapon this season, almost in reverse. Beckett has been using his curve to set up his fastball, not the other way around.

"I threw a 2-0 curveball today, I threw several 1-1 curveballs," Beckett said. "I've been able to locate my curveball. It's not like I'm just throwing them down the middle. I've been able to back-door to lefties, getting them away to righties, getting them out front."

On the season Beckett has 84 strikeouts against 26 walks in 86⅔ innings, and a year after having a rib removed to relieve nerve pressure caused by Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, the right-hander ranks third in the National League with a miniscule 2.28 ERA.

"There was so much uncertainty about the surgery that he had last year, about how a guy is going to bounce back," manager Don Mattingly said. "From the beginning of spring training, he has been basically maintenance free."

In half of Beckett's 14 starts this year he has allowed zero or one run.

The Dodgers cashed in a leadoff single by Drew Butera in the third inning. He was sacrificed by second by Beckett then scored on a single by Dee Gordon, who added to the rally with his legs. Gordon stole second base on a pitch-out, his 39th theft of the season, then advanced to third when catcher Rene Rivera's throw went into center field.

A fly ball from Hanley Ramirez to Will Venable in shallow center field was deep enough to score Gordon, who raced home ahead of the swipe tag attempt by Rivera at the plate, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

Justin Turner singled in the fifth inning, giving him at least one hit in each of his last 13 starts. He advanced to second on a wild pitch then two outs later scored on a single by Ramirez, who drove in his second run of the night and extended his own hitting streak to eight games.

Another streak saw fit to continue, as Matt Kemp singled in the sixth inning to push his run to nine straight games.

The Dodgers added an insurance run in the eighth inning thanks to two hits and a run-scoring single by Adrian Gonzalez, his third straight game with an RBI to give the Dodgers a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth.

Enter left-hander Paul Maholm, whom manager Don Mattingly said he would try to use more to help ease the burden of J.P. Howell, the only other left-hander in the bullpen and who leads the team with 36 appearances. Maholm retired two of the four batters he faced, and his successor Brandon League retired one of the three he faced, allowing the Padres to cut the lead in half.

Staked with a two-run lead one night after he allowed three runs in the ninth inning, closer Kenley Jansen was back out there again in the ninth. This time, after working on his delivery with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, assistant pitching coach Ken Howell and bullpen coach Chuck Crim before the game, things worked out better for Jansen, who allowed an infield single but nothing else to record his 21st save.

"The closer has to be able to clean the slate. We've seen it over the years guys are going to give up games, there are going to be games where the guy gives up runs, that's just the way it is," Mattingly said. "The key is to bounce back, and that's where Kenley has been pretty good. He seemed to keep his confidence, especially as he has grown up into this role, where he's able to clear the mind and go out on the attack."

Saturday particulars

Home runs: none

WP - Josh Beckett (5-4): 7 IP, 4 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts

LP - Tyson Ross (6-7):  7 IP, 6 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 1 walk, 5 strikeouts

Sv - Kenley Jansen (21): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 strikeout