SAN DIEGO -- Tim Hudson had another rough start, costing the San Francisco Giants ground in the playoff chase and raising some big questions considering that his next scheduled start is against Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Hudson allowed four runs in the first inning and the Giants were held to three hits in a 5-0 loss to San Diego on Friday night that dropped them 3 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West race.
The Giants' lead in the wild-card race is down to one game over Pittsburgh, but their magic number to clinch a wild-card spot dropped to four thanks to the Pirates' 4-2 victory against Milwaukee. The Dodgers won 14-5 at the Chicago Cubs.
Hudson (9-12) lost his third straight start, guaranteeing the first losing record in his 16-year big league career.
He allowed five runs, four earned, on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, with two strikeouts and two walks.
It wasn't as bad as Saturday night, when Hudson had the worst start of his career, lasting just one inning plus two batters in a 17-0 home loss to the Dodgers. He allowed six runs and eight hits while making 35 pitches.
Hudson said he has confidence he can fix things before his next start Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.
"Even though my last couple of starts have been pretty bad, on paper I feel like I haven't been quite as bad as what those innings have shown," Hudson said. I've just got to go out there and make a couple of adjustments. I think there's a little bit of a delivery thing going on that I have to work on."
Hudson got into trouble right away when he loaded the bases with one in the Padres' first, allowing singles by Yangervis Solarte and Jedd Gyorko and walking Yasmani Grandal. Hudson got Seth Smith to fly out to right, but Alex Amarista hit a two-run double into the gap in right-center. Cameron Maybin hit a two-run single to center before he was caught stealing to end the inning.
"I felt pretty good today, actually," Hudson said. "It was just of those innings where I was one pitch away from putting up a zero. Amarista got a hit with bases loaded, 3-2 count; I had to come to him right there.
"Obviously I'm not making the kind of pitches I need to make. Innings are not going the way I want them to, especially early. I need to make better pitches."
Said manager Bruce Bochy: "That first inning he just got the ball up. He had two outs there. If he had gotten out of that I think he throws a nice game. The one pitch would have been nice to get before the double. That changed the whole at-bat. After that I thought he settled down. The first inning was tough -- get two outs and give up four runs.
"That wasn't the whole story, though. WE couldn't do anything offensively. We had a tough time getting anything going," Bochy said.
The Giants had only three base runners in seven innings against Padres rookie Odrisamer Despaigne (4-7). The Cuban defector walked Angel Pagan opening the game and retired the next nine batters before allowing Joe Panik's double just inside first base leading off the fourth. Despaigne retired the next eight batters before Panik singled to left with two outs in the sixth. Despaigne struck out six and walked one.
The Padres added an unearned run in the third when Gyorko reached on a two-base throwing error by third baseman Pablo Sandoval and scored on Smith's double to right.
"Every time I face a team like the Giants with a pretty good lineup, I have to bring my best game into it," Despaigne said through a translator. "They have so many good hitters in the lineup that I can't afford to make too many mistakes. I have a pretty good idea of how to pitch to those guys. I have to make sure I bring my A game."
The Padres right-hander improved to 2-0 with a 0.45 ERA in three starts against San Francisco. He's allowed only one earned run in 20 innings.
The right-hander threw two perfect innings in his fourth relief appearance since being dropped from the rotation in late August.
"That should really help his confidence. I thought he did a nice job," Bochy said.
Giants: Pagan was back in the lineup after missing three straight games with a bulging disc in his back that was irritating a nerve. Pagan came out of the game after striking out in the sixth after his back tightened up.
Padres: Manager Bud Black said closer Joaquin Benoit is available again after not having pitched since Aug. 26 due to a sore right shoulder.
Giants: RHP Yusmeiro Petit 5-4, 3.64 ERA), who took Lincecum's spot in the rotation, is scheduled to start Saturday night as he tries to bounce back from a loss to Dodgers.
Padres: RHP Andrew Cashner (4-7, 2.20) is 2-1 with 1.85 ERA in five starts since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 23.