Down on the Dodgers Farm June 17

The first-half title hopes once burned brightly like a bonfire in the night for three Dodger farm teams. However Smokey the Bear arrived last night and the flames have gone out in two places with only an ember still smouldering in the third.

Both Columbus and Vero Beach were officially eliminated Thursday while for Jacksonville, which had held the top spot for much of the time, it's all but over as the Suns are now 2 1/2 behind in the Southern League East with only three games remaining in the first portion of the season.

Jacksonville had seemed to have matters well in hand, leading Tennessee (Cardinals) 5-2 going into the bottom of the ninth with formidable Yhency Brazoban set to close matters out. Instead, Brazoban became Austin Powers without his mojo as the Smokies poured four runs across to win 6-5 and it is they who have the division lead.

Willie Aybar smacked his eighth homer plus three singles and Shane Victorino added a pair of hits to give the Suns the early advantage as Glenn Bott, Elvin Nina and Franquelis Osoria all pitched effectively only to have all that vanish in the end.

Vero Beach also had a normally potent closer lose his effectiveness as Brevard County (Expos) picked up the winner against Steve Schmoll (1-3) for a 4-3 victory that left the Dodgers 5 1/2 back in the Florida State South, also with only three remaining in the half. Jarod Plummer, who had been on the disabled list for almost a month with a tired arm, threw a strong five innings for Vero, giving up only three hits and a run, but the relief corps faltered after that.

Columbusmanaged only seven singles and committed four errors as the Rome Braves took them 5-2 to drop the Catfish four out in the SAL South with three left. Casey Hoorelbeke lasted only three innings, being touched for five hits and four runs to lose his first decision for the Fish.

While the title contenders all were turned out into the darkness, lowly Las Vegas , 12 games behind in the PCL South, blazed with glory, stomping Portland (Padres) 14-3. Chin Feng Chen went 3-3 including his 11th home run, Luis Garcia sent his 18th out, Jose Flores was also 3-3, Antonio Perez ripped a triple and a double while both Jason Repko and Koyie Hill contributed a pair of two-base knocks.

This more than eased the path for Heath Totten, who has had little to smile about this season as a 5.57 ERA will attest. But with this kind of backing, he strolled the distance, winning for only the third time against eight setbacks.

Injury Update--Jeremy Giambi, who had suffered a setback in his recovery from his spinal problems is once again working out and hopes to be activated at Las Vegas next month. Cody Ross, who had a hand broken when a car door was slammed on it, expects to make it back by the middle of July.