They're B-a-a-c-c-k-k-k

LOS ANGELES, California--"The report of my death was highly exagerated," Mark Twain once wrote. Twain was a lefthander with only a fair fastball but a surprising curve and could have been working for Josh Rawich, Dodger publicity guru when he made his famous quote. The Dodgers, left for dead and almost overtaken by the Bond-less Giants, have stood up, dusted themselves off and jumped back into the NL West race, now trailing by and even four games.

Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News pointed out Wednesday morning, "They aren't an especially close-knit bunch, these Dodgers. The current mix of veterans, rookies, introverts, extroverts, free spirits and devotees of the company line doesn't really lend itself to unity, chemistry or group dinners on the road. But ... this ragtag bunch, with its losing record and lack of national respect, has legitimately clawed its way back into the race in the National League West and appears to have every intention of playing baseball into October.

The latest chapter in his melodrama, one that would have made Tom Mix and his white hat proud, saw them brush off three home runs by the Cincinnati Reds in front of 42,826 faithful and earn a 7-4 victory.

The Dodgers have won six of 12 since the All-Star break, a record that don't exactly bring back memories of the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers (105-49) or the 1962 Los Angeles club (102-63) but coupled with an eight-game losing streak by the league-leading San Diego Padres -- that ain't so bad.

Starter Odalis Perez (6-5) fell behind 1-0 in the second inning, allowing hits to four of the five batters but left fielder Jayson Werth helped out by nailing two baserunners, including Edwin Encarnacion at the plate to end the inning.

Cincinnati starter Eric Milton slammed a home run in the third inning -- Milton's second of the season, both against the Dodgers -- to make it 2-1. Then Jason Repko, who has sparkled in the outfield this season, seemed to lose a ball in the lights in the fifth, allowing an unearned to score from second base.

However in between, Perez was more than adequate, and the offense was more than adequate. The Dodgers went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position, got a two-out single by Repko in the second, a three-run rally in the seventh -- with doubles by Werth and Antonio Perez, a two-run single by Cesar Izturis and an RBI single by Kent-- and then Olmedo Saenz's home run with Repko on base in the eighth to craft a very business-like seven run total.

With the Dodgers trailing 3-2 in the seventh, No. 7 hitter Jayson Werth led off with a single, Repko followed with a double and both scored on a looping single by leadoff man Cesar Izturis.

Jeff Kent, mashed a solo homer in the fourth and an RBI single in the seventh. Repko led the team with three hits, including an RBI single in the first.

Perez settled down to finish with a solid seven-inning line of eight hits, three runs (two earned), three strikeouts and no walks. Steve Schmoll became the 332nd pitcher to allow a home run to Ken Griffey Jr. in the eighth, but Yhency Brazoban -- whose wife gave birth to the couple's second son earlier in the day -- pitched around a leadoff double in the ninth for his 19th save.

That Twain guy hit it right on the head. He should try writing for a living.

Rumor Mill-- Antonio Perez is batting .327 but has been relegated to spot starts due to Oscar Robles' emergence as a hot-hitting third baseman and Jeff Kent's reluctance to move to first. The Reds could be interested in Perez and pitcher Edwin Jackson in exchange for Adam Dunn, an outfielder who hit 46 home runs last year. Jackson, who struggled in brief stints with the Dodgers last year, is 3-3 with a 4.11 ERA since being demoted from Class AAA Las Vegas to Class AA Jacksonville on June 15. Pirates outfielder Matt Lawton, who is defensively limited but has a .377 on-base percentage, is a free agent this winter, but the Dodgers -- who have outfielders J.D. Drew, Milton Bradley and Jayson Werth under control contractually for 2006 -- might be willing to take on a rent-a-player. The biggest issues are Lawton's contract and the price to acquire him. The Dodgers probably would want Pittsburgh to assume a chunk of the $3.2 million that remains on Lawton's deal. They're also not going to surrender Joel Guzman, Andy LaRoche, Chad Billingsley or any of their other top prospects to land him.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Dodger Stadium has always been a pitchers' park, but it has also been an above-average home run park. Through Tuesday night, there have been 105 home runs hit in the ravine, 52 by the Dodgers and 53 by their visitors. That's more than the number of home runs the Rockies and their visitors have combined to hit in Coors Field in 48 games. However, only eight triples have been hit at Dodger Stadium all season, second-fewest in the Major Leagues. Also, only six of the 30 Major League fields have yielded fewer doubles than Dodger Stadium (162). …Jose Valentin back in Los Angeles, having just received an MRI on his right elbow at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic. The third baseman had been bothered by soreness in the joint during his rehab and decided to come to L.A. for an MRI. His throwing elbow is the only thing still paining the career infielder, who's been on the disabled list since May 4 with torn ligaments in his right knee. …J.D. Drew, who went home to Hahira, Ga., shortly after being placed on the DL July 4 with a broken left wrist, returned to Los Angeles nine days ago and reports the wrist is making slow progress at he works to get his mobility and strength back.He hopes to return at the end of August or beginning of September. …On this date in 1998, former Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton and Dodgers Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. …Dodgers scouting director Logan White said he doesn't expect negotiations with top draft choice Luke Hochevar, a right-hander out of the University of Tennessee, to begin in earnest until sometime next month. It logically follows that Hochevar, who pitched almost 140 innings for the Volunteers this year, probably won't pitch for any Dodgers farm club until next spring because the minor-league season ends on Labor Day. …Jeff Weaver (8-8, 4.41) will take on the Reds' in the final game of the series

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