And Then There Was One

It sounds like the classic "September Song": "The lead dwindles down, to a precious few." And dwindle it has, from a 7 1/2 game margin on August 11 and six games on September 11, it is hanging at one game in the lost column after a 4-0 loss to San Diego and a Giant win over Houston. Brad Penny was unable to be the starter to lead them out of the wilderness and his teammates could only manage two singles (Beltré, Green) and a double (Hernandez).

What would turn into Penny's final start of the 2004 season came in the fourth inning when he took himself out after his arm tightened up. The preliminary report was again irritation of the nerve in the upper arm. He returned to Los Angeles after the game and Thursday will have an MRI and electro myography.

Manager Jim Tracy spoke to the club after the game. "I told them it's an 11-game season and we're still in first place," said Tracy. "We've played 151 games and the opportunity to participate in the postseason is right in front of us."

The Dodgers have dropped seven of their last 10, during which they've lost 5 1/2 games of their lead. Rookie Edwin Jackson will probably get the ball when Penny's spot comes around again Monday. He pitched 4.2 innings in a start Sunday.

It was the seventh time in the last 12 starts a Dodgers pitcher went less than five innings. The starting ERA over the last 29 games is 6.80.

Penny was throwing hard early in the game, averaging 95 mph and hitting 97. But his command was off and he had no apparent feel for the breaking ball. The velocity slid to 93 mph in the third when he gave up a two-run homer in a three-run rally.

Penny had no fastball better than 92 mph in the fourth and his last pitch was only 91 mph. He finished with three-plus innings, three earned runs, five walks, three hits and two strikeouts.

Dodger Blue Notes--Shawn Green still hasn't decided whether he would play or sit on Friday night in San Francisco. The Jewish holiday lasts from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, during which the Dodgers will play a Friday night game in San Francisco and another one Saturday afternoon. Three years ago, Green sat out one game against the Giants on Yom Kippur while the Dodgers were 3 1/2 games behind Arizona and two behind the Giants. Green said he is considering playing one game or none, but not two. Green said he told club management Tuesday that he was learning toward playing one game and missing one, but changed his mind after consulting with friends. Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement and Jews customarily refrain from all work, fast and attend synagogue. The most famous such decision was made by Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, who missed Game 1 of the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins because of Yom Kippur. ... Jose Lima pitched a bullpen session with his broken thumb and is expected to make his Saturday start. "I know it's broken, but it's broken whether I pitch or not," said Lima. "They need me. And I can pitch with it. I threw my fastball for strikes, my changeup and I even threw about six sliders. I can feel it, but it's better than yesterday and will be better Saturday than today." ... Kaz Ishii, sent to the bullpen twice this season but still tied for the club lead with 13 wins, will start in place of Wilson Alvarez on Thursday. Ishii has made two starts in September, the last on Sept. 10, when he was removed after allowing four runs in 2.1 innings. On July 16, Ishii was 11-4 with a 3.94 ERA. Since then he is 2-3 with a 6.56 ERA. The Dodgers are 17-11 in his starts. ... Right-handed pitcher Chad Billingsley was selected by USA Today as the Dodgers' minor league player of the year. In 26 starts at Class A Vero Beach and Double-A Jacksonville, he was 11-4 with a 2.55 ERA and he won his last 10 decisions. Billingsley was the Dodgers' first-round pick in the 2003 June draft.