Houlton Pitches Seven Shutout Innings; L.A. Loses

After a lengthy meeting called by owner Frank McCourt and General Manager Paul DePodesta, who pointed out the long Dodger tradition of diversity, the distracted team played distractedly -- and scorelessly -- into the eighth before the lowly three Rockie doubles broke the scoreless tie and win 2-1, dropping the club six games behind San Diego. Milton Bradley's comments aimed at Jeff Kent on Tuesday was cause for the meeting in which the Dodger officials outlined what they expect from the team.

After Kent confronted Bradley after a game in Florida when he failed to score from first base on a double. The 'discussion' became heated and the players were separated by teammates.

Tuesday Bradley told the Dodger media that Kent's handling of the situation was because he, Bradley, was African-American. Kent vigorously denied the charge. The escalating incident became the reason for the meeting.

The Rockies and Dodgers then engaged in an old-fashioned pitchers' duel between Byung-Hyun Kim, who worked 6.2 innings, and D.J. Houlton, who pitched seven. It rumbled scoreless through the seventh before Colorado banged out three doubles, started by pinch-hitter Cory Sullivan, and followed by Aaron Miles and Matt Holliday, broke the ice.

The big hits came off rookie Steve Schmoll (2-2). Holliday's RBI double was served up by Yhency Brazoban. The Dodgers scored only in the eighth off Mike DeJean on a one-out double by Ricky Ledee and a two-out single by Olmedo Saenz.

The Dodgers were hitless until Jose Cruz Jr. followed Dioner Navarro's one-out walk in the bottom of the fifth with a double to right field. But neither Houlton, who struck out, or Oscar Robles, who flied out, could move the runners.

Houlton pitched a gem, allowing a single to Todd Helton with two out in the first, and then sailed through the Colorado lineup until Miles' two-out single in the sixth. Helton doubled in the seventh and Holliday followed with a walk, but Houlton battled out of the inning without a run.

The Dodgers have given Houlton little run support over last four starts, scoring only three runs for him during the games.

As tough as the loss was, the Dodgers may have also lost Bradley for the rest of the season. His knee injury is apparently more serious than first expected. Bradley, the third hitter in the lineup, is hitting .290 on a team that cannot lose anyone as they hang on to a thin thread of hope as the season plays out.

Shortstop Cesar Izturis and outfielder J.D. Drew also are injured, mirroring a season when nearly everyone in the lineup has served a term on the disabled list.

Neither McCourt nor DePodesta would comment on what they told the team during the pregame meeting, McCourt, the players said, did not establish whether Bradley would return to the team. DePodesta answered a question about Bradley's return next season by saying, "I hope so. We all hope so."

Baker responds-- Kent, in responding to Bradley's charge that he does not deal well with African-Americans, said to check with his African-American former manager, Dusty Baker.

Baker told MLB.com: "There's validity to what both of them said. I don't know Milton Bradley, but I know Milton was right about one thing -- about people not wanting to talk about race and people not wanting to accept that it's here. In my mind, both of them had very valid points. But as far as Jeff being a racist, I can't agree with that.

"I had Jeff a long time [at San Francisco], and that's not one of the things I could say or even think about saying. Jeff is Jeff, Jeff is different. I loved having Jeff on my team. Jeff's a player and he comes to play. I remember Jeff lining up one of the [African-American] players on the team with a very good-looking white girl, and racists don't do that.

"On the other hand, Milton had some true and valid points."

Dodger Blue Notes-- Right-handed pitcher Luke Hochevar, from the University of Tennessee, selected with the Dodgers first pick and 40th overall in last June's amateur draft, has yet to attend class at the University of Tennessee. But scouting director Logan White said he was "not real optimistic" about his chances of signing Hochevar, who is seeking around $4 million, with the Dodgers offering around $2.5 million. The Dodgers would relinquish rights to Hochevar if he attends classes. Dodger Scouting Director Logan White said Hochevar could be making a mistake. Last year the Dodgers took Arizona State first baseman Jeff Larish in the 13th round, but he turned down an offer of $650,000 -- an amount normally given to second-round picks-- and returned to school. This year Larish went in the fifth round and signed with Detroit for $225,000. He is also represented by Scott Boras. …Brad Penny, tonight's scheduled starter, said he's been told his appeal of a five-game suspension will be heard in Chicago next week. Penny was suspended for arguing after umpire Rob Drake ejected him from a July 14 contest. …Shortstop Cesar Izturis missed his second game Wednesday with an inflamed sacroiliac joint in his lower back and said pain is now radiating down his left leg, the same one that had a strained hamstring that prevented him from playing in the All-Star Game. "I can't bend, I can't do anything," said Izturis, who figures to be out awhile. …Outfielder J.D. Drew advanced to hitting some balls off a tee Wednesday.