Rookie Kevin Kouzmanoff's three-run homer broke a tie in a six-run fourth inning and the Padres won 7-6 Friday night in a matchup of NL West rivals separated by a game.
"Just when you think you have a safe lead, you have to keep pounding away. This is a tough division," Kouzmanoff said. "It feels good. We're halfway through and have to keep it going."
Chris Young (8-3) allowed two runs and seven hits, struck out nine and walked one in winning his fourth straight decision for the two-time defending division champions, who have won three in a row.
"I'd rather be in first place September 30 or October 1," he said.
Trevor Hoffman gave up a run in the ninth, and Jeff Kent's two-out double put the winning run at the plate. But Hoffman got Luis Gonzalez to pop out for his 22nd save in 24 chances.
"I was very pleased I was able to limit the damage and gave our team a chance to win," Young said. "We all know that team doesn't quit. They're right up there in the standings for a reason."
Gonzalez struck out all three times he faced Young.
"I saw 29 pitches in three at-bats against him and I couldn't put one in play," Gonzalez said. "So that just goes to show you the frustration that was going through my mind."
The Padres lead the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in baseball's tightest division.
"The way the West is set up, you definitely don't want to fall too far behind because there are some good teams," Dodgers center fielder Juan Pierre said. "You can make up ground or put distance in between you by playing these teams heads-up. We did a good job with Arizona and now we've got to protect the home front."
Hong-Chih Kuo (1-4) gave up seven runs and six hits, struck out three and walked three in losing his third in a row.
Reminded that it was Kuo's third poor start in a row, Dodgers manager Grady Little said, "We can count. What he's doing out there is not good enough. His biggest problems were a few base on balls and he was hitting too many bats."
The Padres trailed 2-1 after three innings, then sent 11 batters to the plate in the fourth.
Michael Barrett's RBI single tied the game before Kouzmanoff hit a 1-0 pitch from Kuo into the right field pavilion to give the Padres a 5-2 lead.
Kuo walked Jose Cruz Jr., who was sacrificed to second by Young and took third on a single by Brian Giles that chased Kuo. Marcus Giles' RBI single off Rudy Seanez made it 6-2.
Instead of turning an inning-ending double play, a fielding error by Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal allowed the Padres' seventh run to score.
Los Angeles scored three runs in the eighth on RBI singles by Nomar Garciaparra and James Loney off Royce Ring, and an RBI groundout by Matt Kemp off Scott Linebrink that made it 7-5. The Dodgers had the tying run at the plate, but pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit flied out to end the inning.
The Dodgers led 1-0 on Kent's RBI groundout in the first, but San Diego tied it in the second on Cruz's RBI triple to the center-field gap.
Los Angeles took a 2-1 lead on Juan Pierre's RBI single in the third.
The Dodgers stole a season-high-tying five bases against Barrett, including three by Pierre. They also had that many against the Padres on April 15. ... Kouzmanoff also hit a go-ahead homer in the 10th inning of Tuesday's 3-2 win at San Francisco. ... The Padres are 6-4 against the Dodgers this season, including 2-2 in Los Angeles. ... Young hasn't allowed a homer in his last 69 2/3 innings of work. The Padres' staff has given up 40 homers this season, fewest in the majors.