Dodgers Lose 4-3 as Padres Earn Division Title

No one would admit it, but there must be an overwhelming desire to throw in the towel, cancel the final four games of the season, sweep out the dugout, tidy up the clubhouse, load the car up and drive somewhere where there is no newspapers or televisions for a month or so. On a night the Padres won the N.L. West with a vanilla 79-79 record, the Dodgers blew a 3-2 lead in the eighth and are now poised equidistant between third place (San Francisco and Arizona) and last place (Colorado).

Robert Burns said it best in 1786, "It's hardly in a body's power, to keep at times frae being sour."

The loss was the ninth in 12 games for the Dodgers, who need to win three of their last four games to avoid only their second 90-loss season since moving to Los Angeles in 1958. The 1992 team went 63-99 and finished last. L.A.'s magic number to stay out of the division basement is one win or one Colorado loss.

The Dodgers dropped to 70-88 after Luis Gonzalez smacked a two-run home run in the eighth inning to overturn a 3-2 Dodger lead after Los Angeles had rallied to take the lead on a three-run fifth.

Half of their hits (two) came in the 'big' inning with pinch-hitter Mike Edwards forcing in the first run after being hit by a pitch and Willy Aybar knocking in the final two with a single to left.

Arizona pulled into a second place tie with the Giants after their seventh win in eight games as the division title, up for grabs all season long, went to San Diego with former Dodgers Pedro Astacio (winner) and Rudy Seanez nailing things down.

Arizona scored in two innings. Chad Tracy homered and singled to drive in the first two Arizona runs. Yhency Brazoban (4-10) walked Craig Counsell to open the eighth, and Gonzalez followed by hitting a 2-1 pitch into the right-center seats for his 24th homer and the game.

Ever the optimist, manager Jim Tracy said, "We did everything we could do tonight. We made the most of four hits. A leadoff walk followed by a home run, and then (Brazoban) settles down and mows down the next three."

D.J. Houlton started and allowed four hits and two runs in five innings before leaving the game trailing 3-2.

Arizona starter Shawn Estes retired 12 of his first 13 batters before suddenly losing it in bottom of the fifth. Jose Cruz walked and Dioner Navarro, who had two of the Dodgers' four hits, singled to open the inning. Jayson Werth struck out before Jason Repko walked to load the bases.

Pinch-hitter Edwards was hit with a pitch to force in a run and Aybar singled to suddenly give Houlton a chance to pick up a rare win.

Shawn Estes, who for the third time was going for his 100th career victory, injured his left ankle and left the game.

It made little difference to the Dodger batters, however, and they could only manage Oscar Robles single leading off the eighth over the final four innings.

Left-hander Wilson Alvarez made perhaps his final appearance of his career in the seventh. The 35-year-old left-hander was drilled on his pitching hand by Shawn Green and left the game. X-rays of his ring and pinky fingers revealed no fractures.

Alvarez, who had announced his retirement effective at season's end, said he thought his hand was broken when the ball hit him. "Right now, that's it for me. I'm done, and I don't want to make a big deal out of it," he said.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo struck out two batters in one scoreless inning of work, giving him nine strikeouts in five big league innings. ... The Dodgers have committed 102 errors this season -- third-fewest in franchise history. Last year's team set the club record, making only 73 errors. ... Diamondbacks 3B Troy Glaus made a throwing error in the fifth to snap Arizona's club-record streak of 94 straight errorless innings. …Pitchers Duaner Sanchez and Edwin Jackson will spend time this offseason working out with rehabilitating closer Eric Gagne and strength coach Todd Clausen in Arizona. Since taking over for Yhency Brazoban as closer in mid-August, Sanchez is 7-for-7 in save situations. …Tracy had no comment when asked to confirm a published report that he requested a contract extension from management. Tracy has a window next week when he can void the remaining year on his current contract. He and his agents met with ownership on Sept. 8. …Olmedo Saenz, eligible for free agency after a highly productive season, said he would like to re-sign with the Dodgers. Saenz has 15 homers and 63 RBI, the second-highest RBI total on the club. …Double-A Jacksonville, the Southern League champion under manager John Shoemaker, was named by Baseball America as the Minor League Team of the Year. Chosen to the overall Minor League All-Star team was third baseman Andy LaRoche, a first-team selection, and Jacksonville catcher Russell Martin, who was a second-team selection. LaRoche combined for 30 home runs and 94 RBI between Class A Vero Beach and Jacksonville, while Martin hit .311 and compiled a .430 on-base percentage. In addition, Martin was picked on the Double-A All-Star team and LaRoche was named to the High Class A team, where he was joined by Vero Beach outfielder Matt Kemp. Two Dodgers farmhands were named as the No. 1 prospects in their respective leagues with LaRoche topping the Florida State League and Class A Columbus left-hander Scott Elbert first in the South Atlantic League. Elbert, the Dodgers' first-round draft pick in 2004, posted an 8-5 record and a 2.66 ERA in 25 outings, including 24 starts. …The Dodgers roster for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League has been determined, with play beginning Tuesday. The pitchers will be right-handers Beau Dannemiller and Eric Hull and left-hander Greg Miller. The position players will be second baseman Tony Abreu, third baseman LaRoche and outfielder Kemp. First baseman James Loney is on the taxi squad. …Odalis Perez (7-8, 4.73 ERA) starts the final Dodger home game tonight.

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