Giants Stumble, Magic Number is 2

This time it was the Dodger bullpen that exploded. One night after Los Angeles scored five in the ninth to win 5-4, the Rockies broke open a 1-1 game with three in the ninth to deal the Dodgers a 4-1 defeat in the light of a 4-3 Padre win over the Giants. The Dodger magic number did go down to 2 with one more game on the ticket before the Giants roll into town for the final three games of the season. A Dodger win and Giant loss tonight and the will clinch their first division title since 1996.

The Dodgers (91-67) remained three games ahead of the Giants, who play one more in San Diego tonight while the Dodgers play one more against the Rockies.

The Dodgers were playing without suspended outfielder Milton Bradley and with super closer Eric Gagné on the sidelines with a stiff shoulder. Every media member in the Western hemisphere was on the field before the game to interview someone -- even each other -- for a new slant on the Bradley suspension.

Gagné is suffering from both bursitis and tendinitis and wasn't available for the game, but club officials are cautiously optimistic he can return tonight.

Bradley was suspended for the remainder of the 2004 championship season and fined an undisclosed amount for his actions directed at fans during the top of the eighth inning of the Dodgers-Colorado Rockies game September 28. Bradley apologized before the game for his actions, said he would not appeal the suspension and would seek anger management treatment.

Odalis Perez collected the Dodgers' first hit, a single into right-center in the third. With two out and Perez at second, Steve Finley hit a ball into the hole between first and second. Second baseman Aaron Miles dived and caught the ball but his throw to first was wild and allowed Perez to score the Dodgers' only run of the night.

With the offense and the bullpen both failing him, Perez came away with his Major League-leading 18th no-decision of the season in 31 starts. Perez's ERA slid to 3.25 but his record held at 7-6.

Perez sailed through the first five innings, giving up only two hits while striking out six. Todd Helton then lined a shot down the left field line with a runner on second to tie the game 1-1.

The Dodgers were unable to solve rookie lefthander Jeff Francis, a 23-year-old who treated the Dodgers just a roughly on their last visit to Colorado. He limited L.A. to three hits, including Adrian Beltré's 200th of the season. Steve Finley and Perez got the other two.

Dodgers 200-hit club
230--Tommy Davis (1962)
210--Steve Garvey (1975)
210--Steve Sax (1986)
208--Maury Wills (1962)
204--Steve Garvey (1979)
202--Steve Garvey (1978)
201 Mike Piazza (1997)
200--Steve Garvey (1974)
200--Steve Garvey (1976)
200--Steve Garvey (1980)
200--Adrian Beltré (2004)

Odalis Perez duplicated his effort in San Francisco last weekend by pitching eight solid innings. He gave up one run and four hits, striking out six while walking two in a 114-pitch effort.

In the ninth, Yhency Brazoban retired the first batter, then walked Todd Helton and gave up a single to Vinny Castilla. Mike Venafro was called upon to face Jeremy Burnitz but he lined a single to right to break the 1-1 tie. Then Pinch-hitter Choo Freeman smacked a bouncer that Venafro stabbed at, deflecting it into left field, allowing two more runs to score.

Gagné undergoes MRI--The Dodgers' 2003 Cy Young winner received a cortisone injection in his shoulder and underwent an MRI after complaining of stiffness when he attempted to play catch before Tuesday's game. The MRI came back clean, there is no structural damage and doctors diagnosed "very mild tendinitis." Gagné had been unavailable since Monday, but this was the first day when shoulder stiffness was given as an explanation. His last appearance was Sunday in San Francisco, when he pitched two innings and saved a 7-4 victory. Gagné hasn't been the same pitcher statistically since he made a three-inning appearance Aug. 1, two days after Guillermo Mota was traded to the Florida Marlins. Until that game, Gagné had allowed 27 hits and 11 walks in 51 innings with a 1.41 ERA. Since then, he has allowed 24 hits and 10 walks in 30.1 innings with a 3.26 ERA.

Dodger Blue Notes--On the first day without Bradley, who usually batted sixth, Tracy dropped Shawn Green from fifth to sixth and moved him to right field. Olmedo Saenz took over for Green at first base and batted seventh. Jayson Werth, who normally bats second, moved down to fifth. And Jose Hernandez, who starts at second base against left-handed pitchers but bats seventh, batted second. ... Dodgers reliever Scott Stewart made his major-league debut with Montreal in 2001 and wound up spending three seasons with the Expos. When news came that they were officially making their long-anticipated move to Washington, D.C., next year, Stewart had mixed emotions. He said. "The fans in Montreal are loyal and have a good knowledge of the game. We averaged about 5,000 a night when I was there, and it seemed like it was the same 5,000 who where there every night. This is a sad day for them." ... The Dodgers held a pregame meeting to vote shares for whatever postseason prize money comes their way. Teams that finish first or second in their division receive award money, which increases depending how far the club advances in the postseason.