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09/26/08 3:17 AM ET

Dodgers win West, lose to Padres

Stults lasts 4 2/3 innings after stepping in for veteran Maddux

LOS ANGELES -- Of his greatest difficulties Thursday, Padres pitcher Jake Peavy didn't merely point to a painstaking 53-pitch fifth inning, but his troubling lack of knowledge of many of the Dodgers hitters he faced in that inning.

The Dodgers that Peavy faced in the fifth inning of what would become a 7-5 victory by the Padres weren't the same ones he faced to start the game as Los Angeles manager Joe Torre liberally substituted players early in the game.

"It's tough when you don't have a scouting report on those guys," Peavy said.

Yes, the Dodgers truly got the final laugh, losing a game but winning a division title, as they clinched the National League West before taking the field for Thursday game that was played in front of a sold-out crowd of 52,569.

The Dodgers (83-76) wrapped up the division title with three games left to play before they jump into the postseason for the third time in the past five seasons, due in part to their dominance over the Padres in September when they won seven of nine meetings.

Torre nearly emptied his bench during the game, pulling starters Rafael Furcal and Jeff Kent first and later taking out Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier and Blake DeWitt, as they left, occasionally at the start of an inning, to cheers as they were replaced by Chin-lung Hu, Juan Pierre, Pablo Ozuna, Jason Repko and Blake DeWitt.

Torre made one lineup change before the game even started, opting to let veteran Greg Maddux skip his last start against his former team as Eric Stults (2-3) got the start on short notice.

Stults yielded a two-run home run to Brian Giles in the second inning as the Padres (62-97) took the lead early. Stults allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings. Relief pitchers Scott Elbert, Ramon Tronsco, Takashi Saito and Jonathan Broxton didn't fare much better as each allowed a run in relief.

The appearances by Furcal, Kent and Saito weren't just sentimental appearances for the trio of players who may be on the bubble for the postseason roster.

Before Wednesday's pinch-hitting appearance, Kent had not played since his left knee locked up on Aug. 29. He underwent surgery and has been rehabilitating the knee. His appearance in the field was important for the Dodgers to see.

"I did OK. I came out of it all right, and hopefully I'll continue to get better. I walked away from it all right," Kent said.

Furcal's appearance at shortstop was his first start since May 5, which was the last game that he started before needed back surgery.

Saito allowed a run in his one inning on Thursday. He hasn't been especially sharp since missing two months with an injured right elbow. Saito has allowed three runs in his last four appearances since coming off the disabled list.

Torre has said that he wouldn't be afraid to use Saito -- who has 17 saves this season -- in a save situation if the situation dictated it. Broxton has saved 14 games in Saito's place and the run Saito allowed Thursday was his first of the month.

Giles and Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit home runs for just the second victory by San Diego over the Dodgers in nine meetings in September.

The Dodgers got to Peavy for three runs in the fifth inning when the Padres' right-hander burned through 53 pitches to get three outs. Los Angeles scored runs on a bases-loaded walk, a wild pitch and on a Hu RBI single.

Pierre had an RBI single in the sixth inning and Matt Kemp had a solo home run in the eighth inning but the Dodgers bullpen couldn't hold the Padres.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.