Brazoban Serves Grand Slam, Dodgers Lose 9-5

Yhency Brazoban (2-7) gave up a ninth-inning grand slam to break a 5-5 tie and chipped just a little more off the Dodgers rapidly dwindling chances to get back into the National League West pennant race. The crushing blow negated come-from-behind homers by Jeff Kent and Milton Bradley. San Diego is staying tantalizingly close, losing to the Mets Wednesday night to Los Angeles remains seven games back, a distance that has seemed recently to be better measured in miles.

Derek Lowe started and worked six innings, allowing seven hits and five runs, three earned because of an error by Kent at second base. Duaner Sanchez worked two scoreless innings before giving the ball to Brazoban in the top of the ninth.

Brazoban hit Chase Utley with a pitch to start the inning, then Utley stole second and Bobby Abreu was intentionally walked. Pat Burrell then walked unintentionally.

Then for the second night in a row, Ryan Howard slugged a late-inning home run to make the difference in the game. He caught one of Brazoban's fastballs and sent it deep into the California night, some 453 feet into the right-center field seats.

The 25-year-old Brazoban is attempting to learn an unusually difficult job at the major league level and with only 160 minor league innings on his resume. He has a blistering fastball, an average curve and no change of speed at the present time.

Eric Gagne had 780 professional innings when he became the Dodgers closer, learning the tricks of the trade at San Antonio and Albuquerque and Las Vegas.

Brazoban's ERA was 1.88 in the middle of May, but puffed up to 6.46 after the big home run. Since the All-Star break he has been used 13 times and has alternately been brilliant or ... well, terrible.

On seven occasions, over eight innings, he hasn't allowed an earned run and has recorded five saves.

But in the other six games he has gotten only six batters while allowing nine hits, 11 runs (a hideous 49.5 earned run average), five losses and a blown save.

However, over the last seven games, in which the Dodgers are 2-5, the bullpen has given up 24 earned runs in 11 innings, a 19.64 ERA.

Jeff Kent went straight to the heart of the problem, pointing out "It's hard for young guys to be consistent. "It's not a knock on their talent, it's just the way it is.

Lowe gave up a two-run home run to Abreu in the first and struggled, but Kent got the lead back in the bottom of the inning with his 22nd home run. The Phillies tied the game in the fourth and took the lead in the fifth, although those two runs were unearned.

Milton Bradley crushed a line-drive two-run home run to center field in the bottom of the inning. He then saved a run in the top of the sixth when, with a runner on second, he made a diving catch on a soft liner to center by Jimmy Rollins.

Beside the two home runs, the Dodgers only managed five on the game, including one each by Oscar Robles, Jose Valentin and Dioner Navarro.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Jose Cruz, Jr., arrived from Boston just before the game and made an inauspicious start, striking three times, drawing a walk and leaving three on base. Joining his third team in less than two weeks, Cruz flew in from Miami, a day after arriving home from Boston after being designated for assignment. To make room for him, rookie Mike Edwards was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas. Cruz was with Arizona this year, missing most of April with a back injury. He played center field primarily when healthy, but with an average in the low .200s, the Diamondbacks sent him to Boston for a pair of Minor Leaguers. …Jayson Werth is eligible and expecting to be activated from the disabled list Thursday. Werth worked out with the team Wednesday and said the damaged bursa sac in his left knee is as good as it will be until offseason surgery. …Manager Jim Tracy said the range of motion in J.D. Drew's broken wrist is about 75-80 percent, meaning he's still not ready for baseball activity. Drew is rehabbing at home. …Odalis Perez pitches tonight's series finale against the Phillies.