A Rock(ies) Strewn Road Toward the Pennant

Friday the 13th came on Wednesday the 14th this month. The Dodgers saw 5-0, 5-4, 6-4 and 7-6 leads disappear into the cool California night as Colorado put yet another arrow into the side of the Dodger chances on the strength of a pair of two-out home runs. Rookie D.J. Houlton stumbled through four shutout innings, leaving the based loaded twice before a grand slam erased must of their early 5-0 lead and led to an 8-7 loss plus the loss of another day on the calendar.

The Dodgers battled all the way, smacking a pair of home runs of their own, but each was of the solo kind and they left the tying run at second in the ninth, falling six behind the San Diego Padres and into another tie with San Francisco, their host for the next four games.

Rookie Houlton's effort was marginally as bad as rookie Edwin Jackson's the night before. And rookie third baseman Willy Aybar threw a ball away in the eighth inning that cost losing pitcher Yhency Brazoban a run at a most painful time.

Under no pennant pressure, Colorado rookies enjoyed the evening; Cory Sullivan boosting his average against the Dodgers to .436 with four hits, Jorge Piedra, the league's top pinch-hitter, boosting his average to .419 with a n eighth inning double before Sullivan's crushing home run and Garrett Atkins lifting a grand slam home run with two out in the fifth to start the game rolling down hill for Los Angeles in the fifth.

The Dodger bullpen, boasting a 20.1 inning scoreless streak, coughed up three runs in the final four innings, although one of them was unearned.

Houlton walked three in the first inning before getting the final out on a one-hop shot to Aybar at third. He avoided disaster in the second after two, two-out hits, when Jason Repko threw a runner out at third with the bases again jammed to end the inning.

Sailing along with a 5-0 lead, the loaded the bases again in the fifth inning, giving manager Jim Tracy a painful decision, leave the kid in the game with his shutout and let him get the final out and -- seemingly at the time -- the win, or jerk him for a relief pitcher who just might unload them himself.

He left him in, Atkins launched a drive into the night that Repko climbed the center field wall trying to bring back and starting an eight-run Rockie comeback in the final five innings.

As the guy once said, "We shoudda' stood in bed."

Lost in the pain of the defeat was Jeff Kent's run batted in single in the first, giving him his eighth 100-RBI season, passing Hall of Famers Tony Lazzeri and Charlie Gehringer who had seven each. Ricky Ledee followed with a sac fly for a 2-0 lead.

IN the second, Jose Cruz doubled and with one out Repko squeezed him home from third, beating out the bunt. Oscar Robles cracked an 0-for-14 skid with a double to make the margin 4-0.

Repko boomed a long home run in the fourth inning, his seventh of the year, and the only worry anyone had was whether Houlton could tap dance well enough to get through the necessary five inning and collect the win.

Atkin's jackpot shot made that whole concern academic and that was it for Houlton but Franquelis Osoria got the final out of the inning with a grounder to Kent at second.

A home run from Olmedo Saenz, his 15th, in the bottom of the fifth gave Los Angeles some room and a 6-4 margin but that lasted only until the top of the next winning when Aybar's error, a walk and a single allowed Todd Helton to double in a pair of runs to tie the game 2-2, the only runs Colorado scored that didn't come on a home run or with two out.

Despite all, the Dodgers looked like they would break the game open in the seventh after Aybar walked and for the second time Robles banged a perfect hit and run single to right field.

But Jeff Kent hit into a double play, forcing in a run that put the Dodgers on top again, for the last time, by an 8-7 margin.

In the eighth, Brazoban (4-8) gave up a pinch-double to Piedra and a homer to Sullivan, his fourth hit of the night -- again with two out -- and the Dodgers were suddenly, and this time hopelessly, trailing.

A last chance presented itself in the ninth when pinch-hitter Antonio Perez walked and was bunted to second. Aybar, taking a 3-1 pitch that appeared on television replays to be outside but called a strike, struck out and Robles, with three hits and a sharp line drive to center, bounced to second to end the game and perhaps the Dodgers slim chances.

Dodger Blue Notes-- J.D. Drew, declared out for the season the day before, learned he needs season-ending surgery, not on the broken left wrist he suffered in July but on his right wrist and shoulder that has bothered him most of the season. One of the operations will remove debris from the labrum in his right shoulder, while the other will clean up his right wrist. …Kelly Wunsch, out since July 8 with a torn ligament in his right ankle, underwent successful elective surgery on his left hip to have the left hip labrum reattached and debris cleaned out of his socket …The Dodgers may think they still have a shot at the pennant but for the second straight game, only 30,000+ fans showed up at Dodger Stadium. …Elmer Dessens was given the starting assignment in place of Jackson on Sunday against San Francisco. … The Dodgers officially rescinded their offer of a $2.98 million signing bonus to top draft pick Luke Hochevar, with general manager Paul DePodesta notifying Hochevar's Los Angeles-based agent, Scott Boras, both verbally and in writing. There presently is no offer on the table, and it is unclear when or if negotiations will resume. DePodesta was quick to say the Dodgers aren't abandoning negotiations with Hochevar, a junior right-hander out of the University of Tennessee. …Catcher Dioner Navarro was back in the starting lineup Wednesday after leaving the team Tuesday to be with his wife, Sherley, for the birth of their first child, Dioner, Jr. …With 17 games to go, the Dodgers head to San Francisco to begin a critical four-game series tied with the Giants six games behind San Diego. …Derek Lowe (10-13, 3.67 ERA) will start against the Giants' Brad Hennessey (4-7, 5.12 ERA) tonight in San Francisco.