SAN DIEGO -- For the first time since April 8, Clayton Richard won a game.
Before Richard earned the victory in the Padres' 4-2 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park, he was winless in his previous six starts.
The left-hander snapped the streak by rebounding from a two-run first inning against the NL West-leading Dodgers, who were playing without the injured Matt Kemp and several other regulars. Richard settled down, throwing six scoreless innings and retiring the final 11 batters he faced.
"Winning feels a lot better," he said.
The victory was Richard's first since he won his first start of the season against the Dodgers at Petco. Since then, he had earned a no-decision and lost five consecutive starts.
"I think we saw through seven innings what we've seen at times during his starts," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Today, the difference was he strung the innings together, seven of them."
A big key was lack of walks. It was his first walk-free outing since his victorious first start of the season. He gave up four hits on Wednesday and struck out six in his season-high-tying seven innings. He also committed his fourth error of the season.
"When you eliminate free passes and putting people on base yourself, you give yourself more of a chance to succeed. It's no secret," said Richard, who improved to 2-5 with a 4.94 ERA. "Being able to do that today was a definite plus.
"With [catcher] Nick [Hundley] behind the plate, being on the same page, that helps out a lot. Our defense played terrific."
The Dodgers (24-13) scored two runs in the first inning against Richard. Tony Gwynn Jr. led off with a single and scored on Elian Herrera's first Major League hit, an RBI double for a 1-0 Dodgers lead. Andre Ethier's sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 2-0.
Richard got out of the inning with a groundout and allowed two hits in the next six innings. The Dodgers finished with five hits.
"He executed better after the first inning," said Gwynn, a former Padres teammate. "He showed me different locations. The ball was popping. He was throwing a lot better today than at our place. He pitched well. You've got to tip your hat to him. When he pitches like that, he can be tough."
As Richard bounced back, Chase Headley's bat allowed the last-place Padres (14-24) to rally. Headley's team-leading fifth home run of the season cut the Dodgers' lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the first. His two-run double off starter Chris Capuano gave the Padres a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning.
"He threw some tough pitches early in that count, and I had to fight to get to that pitch," Headley said.
In his 38th game of the season, Headley has exceeded his home run total from last year. His career high is 12, in 2009.
"I'm by no means a guy who's trying to hit home runs," Headley said. "But I do feel like I'm going to hit more than four homers most years. To come out and get off to a decent start in that manner, it's nice, but I think more importantly, if you go out there and have good at-bats, for me, those home runs are going to come."
The Padres added a run in the seventh. Capuano exited after loading the bases following a single, error on a sacrifice bunt and a walk. Javy Guerra entered and issued a bases-loaded walk to Cameron Maybin to bring in an unearned run.
Capuano (5-1) allowed four runs (three earned) in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out six and walked three.
The Padres improved to 7-7 in May.
"For the most part, up and down the lineup, it seems like we've put more quality at-bats together," Headley said. "Guys maybe are getting more comfortable. I think there's been an improvement in that aspect."
Andrew Cashner struck out the side in the eighth, reaching 100 mph with his fastball. Dale Thayer earned his fourth save after allowing a hit in the ninth. After replacing the injured Huston Street, Thayer has earned four of his five Major League saves this season with the Padres. He had 173 saves in the Minors.
"I think the velocity is up a tick. I think the breaking ball is more consistent," Black said, regarding Thayer. "The breaking ball is sharp and in the zone. The velocity is probably up a mile or two I assume over his career. And he's pitched with a lot of confidence."
Sarah Trotto is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.