Dodger Fans Enjoying Small Victories

A long-time Dodger fan pointed out that in a season such as this, one must find 'small victories' to enjoy since the rush of winning games that count, or winning any games at all such as in 2005, come much too seldom. So with that sage advice in mind, and despite a 4-1 loss to Arizona, we'll take the Pollyanna route and emphasize the good things.

Hong-Chih Kuo worked two innings in relief and after two tough outings, seemed to find the rhythm he demonstrated while pitching for Vero Beach and Jacksonville.

He struck out the side in the sixth, nailing Craig Counsell and Luis Gonzalez, then fanned Tony Clark and Troy Glaus in the seventh, lowering an earned run average from the average temperature in Hawaii (81.00) some 69 points to 11.57.

Edwin Jackson came in to relief Derek Lowe, who had struggled through three innings while throwing 92 pitches, and showed a glimpse of the 20-year-old who beat Randy Johnson on the kids 20th birthday.

Although that seemed 10 years ago, it was only 2001.

Jackson worked two innings and although he only worked two innings and gave up a run on three hits, seemed much more composed on the mound.

Jon Broxton, fresh from Jacksonville's Southern League Championship club, took over to strike out two more in the eighth, giving the Dodgers kindergarten crew eight Ks over the final five innings.

Then there was Jeff Kent, the only solid rock in the starting lineup during this dreary season, who smacked his 28th home run into the left field seats to pull within one of Davey Lopes second base record of 29.

By the by, Lopes hit the landmark homer in 1979, another year that small victories were standard fare. After winning the N.L. pennant in 1977 and 1978, they had a horrendous first half of the season, the Dodgers recorded the best record in the National League over the second half and finish third, 11.5 games behind.

Willy Aybar, after cruising along with a .400+ average in his major league debut, broke am 0-for-8 streak with an eighth inning single.

And, reaching a bit, they saw Colorado smother San Diego 20-1, scoring 15 runs in the first three inning in an apparent throwback game to the days when the club didn't freeze the baseball to keep it from jumping out of the park. The surging Rockies pulled within five of the Dodgers.

But none of that kept the Dodgers (67-83) from falling a season-worst 16 games below .500, from falling a half-game behind the Diamondbacks into fourth place in the National League West or from seeing the magic number for their elimination cut to five.

Javier Vazquez, who nearly came to Los Angeles in one of the on again-off again Yankee-Diamondback-Dodger trades in the off-season, may have made his last home start for the Arizona Diamondbacks If that was the case, it was a good one.

Vazquez allowed four hits through 7.2 innings, allowing only a single to Mike Edwards in the second, a single to Oscar Robles in the fourth, Kent's homer in the seventh and Aybar's single in the eighth. Olmedo Saenz collected the fifth and final Dodger hit in the ninth off Jose Valverde, who recorded his ninth save.

Vazquez has a clause in his contract that allows him to demand a trade after this season. If the demand is not met, he can become a free agent. He said he did not know his plans at this time.

He struck out seven and walked one in his first victory in a month and second in his last 10 starts. He had not pitched in a week as manager Bob Melvin went with a six-man rotation.

Arizona's eighth victory in 13 games against the Dodgers saw them jump on Lowe for three in the first inning on three hits and a pair of walks. They added a single run off Jackson in the fourth.

Lowe (11-14) threw 50 pitches in the first inning and left after three, matching his shortest outing of the season. Lowe, 3-0 in his previous four starts, allowed three runs and six hits.

"Our bullpen was very impressive and they were all kids," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said, obviously playing the small victory game. "We had the tying run at the plate with two outs in the eighth. It would have been interesting if we had got Jeff Kent up there with the bases loaded."

Dodger Blue Notes-- Catcher Dioner Navarro returned to Los Angeles because of the illness of his newborn son Dioner Jr. ...OF J.D. Drew underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist and right shoulder on Tuesday. Drew broke his wrist 72 games into his first season with the Dodgers when he was hit by a pitch from Arizona's Brad Halsey on July 3. Drew was hitting .286 with 15 homers at the time. …When Matt Kinney hit Jayson Werth with a pitch in the sixth inning of Sunday's game, it marked the 62nd time this year a Dodger has been hit, matching the LA record set last year. The franchise record was set in 1899, when the Brooklyn Superbas were hit 125 times. Jeff Kent and Hee-Seop Choi have each been hit eight times this year to lead the team. Dodger pitchers, meanwhile, have drilled opponents 59 times to break the LA record of 51 set in 1959. …Los Angeles hasn't played too many meaningless late-season games during Jim Tracy's five-year stint as Dodgers manager. He's only managed 10 games in his first four years that didn't have a bearing on the postseason. …The Dodgers made two roster additions on Tuesday, activating Wilson Alvarez from the disabled list and recalling Jonathan Broxton from Double-A Jacksonville. Alvarez is 1-4 this season but has only thrown 23 innings while making three trips to the DL. Broxton posted a 7.04 ERA while making eight appearances with the Dodgers in late July and early August. He nailed down the save in the Southern League championship on Saturday. The 21-year-old was 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA for the Suns. …Tracy was encouraged by Odalis Perez's bullpen session on Monday and is hopeful that Perez can still pitch this season. Perez is sidelined with a strained right oblique muscle. …Injured closer Eric Gagne continued his throwing program on as he tries to overcome right elbow surgery that ended his season in June. Gagne, who threw on Friday, was scheduled to make 40 throws from varying distances. The closer, who missed the first month of the season with elbow problems, converted all eight of his save opportunities in 2005. …Former Diamondbacks farmhand Brad Penny (7-9, 3.92 ERA) will be on the mound tonight to face Arizona.