Another Disaster in Death Valley

The Padres can change their home field, they can changed their uniform colors but the one thing they can't change is the fact that Dodger history is littered with seasons that went awry on the Padres field. Since 1976, through many very lean years, the Padres have won 17 series and lost 13 at home against Los Angeles. A five-run bottom of the ninth earlier in the season is etched in LA's memory.

In Wednesday's 5-3 win, the Padres trumped Dodgers' ace Brad Penny, with three runs in the second inning to erase a two-run homer by Willy Aybar and then after Matt Kemp had tied the game in the eighth with a pinch-hit home run, two more in the bottom of the inning off losing pitcher Hong-chih Kuo.

The latest edition of "Joe Hardy Lives" adds another chapter to Kemp's remarkable resume. Hardy was the hero of "Damn Yankees," the story of a baseball player that sold his soul to the devil in exchange for super powers.

Of course, the remarkable young (21) Kemp never made such a bargain, but his accomplishments over his brief major league career -- 15 games -- have seen him hit .378 with seven homers (second on the team), and a team-leading on-base percentage of .420 and a slugging average of .867.
  Kemp's record

gms  ab  r  h  2b 3b hr  bi sb-cs obp slug  ave 
15   45 13 17  1  0  7  16   3-0 .420 .867 .378
But even his heroics were unable to help the suddenly impotent Dodgers attack. Couple that with a wild streak by Kuo and you have a disaster in the making.

The offense can be summed up in two sentences:

Willy Aybar slugged a two-run homer in the top of the second inning with Jeff Kent on base. It was his third home run as the third base replacement injured Bill Mueller. Aybar is hitting .302.

Trailing 3-2 in the top of the eighth, Kemp crushed the first pitch he saw in the first pinch-hit at-bat of his three-week, big-league career, launching a 433-foot game-tying homer to dead center to tie the game 3-3.

Penny brought his 7-1 record into the game but after being given a 2-0 lead in the second inning he struggled in a 39-pitch bottom of the inning, allowing three runs, the last of which was knocked in by former Dodger Dave Roberts.

He regrouped to retire 10 consecutive hitters and last six innings but left trailing by a run. Jonathan Broxton held the fort in the seventh and Kemp tied things in the eighth.

Then reliever Hong-Chih Kuo (0-4) took over in the bottom of the eighth and missed the strike zone with his first six pitches. After walking Brian Giles on four pitches and fanning Piazza after starting him 2-0, Adrian Gonzalez went the other way with a tie-breaking double and took third on a throwing error by Rafael Furcal, his third error in the past two games. A pinch-hit single added an insurance run.

The Dodgers (35-30) remain in a tie for first place with Arizona but the Padres are only a game back after winning their fifth game in succession over Los Angeles.
  Score by innings
Dodgers   020 000 010-3
San Diego 030 000 02x-5

  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave
Furcal, SS      4 0 0 0 .248
Lofton, CF      4 0 1 0 .315
  Kuo, P        0 0 0 0 .000
  Baez, P       0 0 0 0 .000
Garciaparra, 1B 4 0 2 0 .359
Drew, RF        4 0 0 0 .285
Kent, 2B        3 1 1 0 .258
Ethier, LF      4 0 0 0 .299
Aybar, 3B       3 1 1 2 .302
  Saenz, PH     1 0 0 0 .299
Martin, C       3 0 0 0 .296
Penny, P        2 0 0 0 .267
  Broxton, P    0 0 0 0 .000
  Kemp, PH-CF   1 1 1 1 .378
    Totals     33 3 6 3
    San Diego  32 5 8 5

  Error- Furcal.  HR- Aybar 
(3), Kemp (7). RBI- Aybar 2 
(20), Kemp (16). LOB- Los 
Angeles 5, San Diego 6.

  Dodgers    in h r-er bb so era
Penny       6.0 5  3-3  1 5 2.49
Broxton     1.0 1  0-0  0 2 2.82
Kuo (L,0-4) 0.1 1  2-2  1 1 5.00
Baez        0.2 1  0-0  0 0 3.55
   WP- Baez. T- 2:40. Att- 30,011.
The Rookie is Ready-- Chad Billingsley told the Los Angeles Daily News his 14th start of the season this afternoon will be similar in nature to the previous 13. The only difference is that this one, for the first time in Billingsley's life, will come in the major leagues. Billingsley, 21, arrived at Petco Park several hours before Wednesday's game after having been told of his callup Tuesday night.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Dr. Vern Williams, of the Kerlan-Jobe clinic, examined disabled Dodgers closer Eric Gagne on Wednesday and confirmed the original diagnosis of nerve inflammation in Gagne's right elbow. There still is no timetable for Gagne's return but it will not be next Thursday when he becomes eligible to come off the 15-day DL. …Jae Seo reported little residual pain in his right elbow and was available last night.…Cesar Izturis said he's been told his injury rehabilitation assignment at Las Vegas will end on Sunday and he expects to be activated for Tuesday night's homestand opener against Seattle. When Izturis is activated, a roster move will be required, which might make things interesting for struggling pitchers Jae Seo and Odalis Perez. Seo could be disabled if the tender shoulder that forced him from Tuesday night's game is more serious than originally believed. He is out of options and would need to be offered to other clubs through waivers before the Dodgers could outright him to the Minor Leagues. Perez's situation is comparable to Russ Ortiz, who was designated for assignment Tuesday by the Arizona Diamondbacks with $21 million remaining on his contract, meaning the Diamondbacks will likely eat the entire commitment. Perez, who could refuse a Minor League assignment, has approximately $18.25 million remaining on the contract he signed after the 2004 season.…Joel Guzman had nothing to say after being demoted to Las Vegas to make room for Billingsley, but Little said the 21-year-old Guzman understood that his limited playing time would diminished by the return of Jeff Kent from the disabled list and "We don't want him sitting as much as he would have been sitting," Little said. Guzman played in only eight games and hit .211 with three RBI and no extra-base hits with three walks, two strikeouts and three double-play grounders. …The Dodgers will host the third annual Father's Day Catch at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. Fans are invited to play catch on the outfield grass from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. PT and is open to the general public. There are no limitations on gender or age, other than the fact that one of the participants has to be an adult. A souvenir foam ball will be provided to participants at the event, courtesy of Macy's. Hard balls or softballs will not be allowed.