Wait 'Till Next Year -- Again

Although the patient fought valiantly, the end came almost painlessly Saturday night in Dodger Stadium before an official crowd of 45,730, many of whom came disguised as empty seats. Their O. Perez outlasted and out-pitched our O. Perez and that resulted in an 8-3 victory for Pittsburgh, a club whose season has been almost as bad as the Dodgers. Official elimination arrived with the loss, giving the Dodgers only second or third to fight for over the final eight games.

Oliver Perez (Pirates) allowed one run in six innings to top Odalis Perez (Dodgers), who fell to 7-8 after opening the season 4-1. The fact that Los Angeles out-Perezed Pittsburgh 2-1 made little difference. Antonio Perez started at short for L.A. and went 1-for-4 with a double.

Our Perez, after spending a total of 80 games on the disabled list with a left shoulder impingement (May 15-July 5) and a strained oblique (Aug. 18-Sept. 24), pitched well for his alloted 28 pitches, throwing 19 for strikes. But he left trailing 1-0 and Elmer Dessens gave up three in the fourth to effectively end the game and the pennant race that was, in reality, over a long time ago.

In the oddity that goes for the N.L. West this season, while the Dodgers battled for he division title, they had been out of the wild card spot for weeks.

No one can accuse the Dodgers of not trying hard, they just were apparently unable to put enough talent on the field to win on a regular basis. Candles will burn late at night in the Los Angeles front office during the cold winter nights to come, attempting to determine just how in the world they got in just such a spot.

After winning the division on the final day of the season last year, they had bright expectations and opened the season with a 12-2 burst. After that time they plodded to a 56-84 record, 28 games below .500 and despite stellar support at the box office, were never really a factor in the division race.

Losing the final three games of a crucial series in San Francisco on Sept. 15-18 but the final nail in the coffin lid and everyone knew it but it wasn't something they wanted to talk about..

Left-hander Wilson Alvarez made his first appearance since Aug. 6, after which the southpaw spent 39 games on the disabled list with a left shoulder impingement. Alvarez was the only L.A. pitcher who didn't allow a run in the game and has announced his plans to retire after the season, Judging by the reception he got from his teammates when he reached the dugout after the eighth inning, you may have seen the last of the old warrior.

The Dodgers will probably spend the final games looking at different faces, hoping to find some who can lead they out of the morass in which they finished the season.

As for the Saturday game itself, Los Angles was never it in after the Pirates scored three in the fourth off Dessens. They cut the Pittsburgh lead to 6-3 with a couple runs in the eighth but that was it.

The single run allowed by Our Perez (7-8) tagged him with the loss and he may make one more start to see if he is, indeed, good to go in 2006. Brad Penny, another of the legion of walking wounded, will probably work when Perez departs.

The Pirates, who have had a streak of 13 consecutive losing seasons, scored n the first on a pair of singles, adding three more in the fourth when Brad Eldrid, batting eighth, slugged a three run homer off Dessens, who allowed four runs in 2.1 innings.

Olmedo Saenz walked, moved to third on a single to right by Dioner Navarro and scored on Jayson' Werth's sacrifice fly.

When they added two more runs in the seventh, they were trailing 6-3 and popped Jon Broxton for a couple more in the ninth.

Saenz walked, moved to third on Jose Cruz's double -- his second hit of the game -- and scored on a wild pitch. Cruz scored on Navarro's ground ball to short.

The Dodgers stranded seven baserunners, four of them in scoring position. They ran themselves out of a first-inning rally with a strikeout (Jeff Kent)-caught stealing (Willy Aybar who had walked) double play.

Freddy Sanchez doubled off Franquelis Osoria in the fifth and scored on Ryan Doumit's single, and Eldred walked and scored on Tike Redman's single in the sixth. In the ninth, Craig Wilson clubbed a two-run double off Jonathan Broxton.

If you have suffered through the dismal season, consider manager Jim Tracy, who's seen 1,121 player-games lost to injury.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Perez started only 17 games this year, pitching 102.2 innings in 2005 after throwing 196.1 last season. Perez plans to pitch winter ball. …Navarro was back in the lineup Friday, although his newborn son remains at the hospital, recovering from kidney problems. …Brad Penny is improving and will throw a bullpen session Monday or Tuesday. Penny was pulled 10 pitches into his Wednesday start due to forearm stiffness. …The Dodgers entered the game 25-6 against the Pirates during Tracy's tenure as manager of the club. …Now officially out of the race, Jeff Weaver's last outing will come Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. …Derek Lowe (11-14, 3.65 ERA) faces Pirates rookie Ian Snell (1-2, 5.35 ERA) this afternoon.

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