Dodgers 7, Padres 4

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There might still be a few question marks in their suddenly overcrowded starting rotation, but one is becoming clear for the Dodgers.

They have a guy they can pencil in for the first game of a playoff series.

And it's not Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw or Opening Day starter Hiroki Kuroda.

It's cool-handed Randy Wolf.

Wolf allowed two runs in seven strong innings on Saturday night and secured career win No. 100 as the Dodgers defeated the Padres, 7-4, at Dodger Stadium.

His win also helped the Dodgers keep pace with the Giants and Rockies, who both won on Saturday. The Dodgers lead the Rockies by 4 1/2 games and the Giants by 5 1/2 in the National League West.

"It took a long time, but it was definitely nice to get that one in," Wolf said of his career milestone.

Wolf again was a calming presence for the Dodgers against the Padres.

He allowed a run in the first and third innings, but his easy approach on the mound rendered the Padres a non-threat for the rest of the game.

It was the kind of start the Dodgers have become accustomed to whenever Wolf takes the mound.

Wolf went 4-1 with a 2.76 ERA in August, and he has gone at least six innings since June 24.

Just as important as Wolf's ability to eat innings is the Dodgers' record on the nights he takes the mound. The Dodgers have gone 19-11 in the games Wolf has started -- their best record with any starter.

"You want to be the guy that when you take the mound guys pretty much know what to expect, and it's going to be a positive result," Wolf said. "If the team considers it a good chance to win when you go out there and pitch, that's the highest compliment."

He doesn't dazzle you with the power of a Billingsley or a Kershaw.

Instead he wears out the other team with a sneaky assortment of fastballs and offspeed pitches -- evidenced by the 13 straight batters Wolf retired to end his evening.

It's that kind of inning-to-inning relentlessness that makes him a good bet to get the nod to start early in a postseason series.

That's probably the safest claim you could make when it comes to Wolf's status, though. You'd get shot down if you threw out the term "staff ace" inside the Dodgers' clubhouse.

Said Dodgers manager Joe Torre: "I don't think we need to put a moniker on it."

Said Wolf: "I absolutely hate that term because I think it's completely overused and it floats. There's no such thing as a floating ace. ... If a guy is like a Roy Halladay, a Johan Santana -- those guys are aces."

Making Wolf's night easier on the mound was the return of the Dodgers offense, which had been absent for much of the homestand.

The Dodgers scored two runs in both the first and second innings (the latter with help from some shoddy San Diego defense), and they put up another two-spot in the fourth.

The seven runs scored were the most scored since Aug. 29 at Cincinnati (11 runs). At the forefront of the Dodgers attack was their leadoff hitter, Rafael Furcal.

Furcal led off the first with a single, drew a walk in the second and doubled in the sixth.

He scored three runs and set the table for Andre Ethier and James Loney, who each had two-RBI nights.

"He makes a big difference at the top of the order -- there's no question," Torre said.

The Dodgers are 24-11 in games in which Furcal has at least two hits, and Saturday night was one of those games when Furcal made sure to be extra aggressive.

Case in point: Furcal advanced to third in the sixth inning on a Juan Pierre chopper and scored on Ethier's double in the next at-bat.

"I feel good when I make a play like that because it's a part of my game," Furcal said. "It's my game right there to be on base, be aggressive and make something happen."

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