Broomed in Oakland

Demonstrating how tight the NL West is, the Dodgers started their latest nine-game road trip in second place, lost twice as many games (six) as they won (three), and finished the tied for first. Oakland completed a sweep of the series with a 5-2 decision on Sunday and they have lost five of their last six games. Today they welcome a day off.

The players get a day off, while management is expected to sort out the matter of the return of Gold Glove shortstop Cesar Izturis, who is expected to be activated Tuesday from his Minor League injury rehabilitation assignment, nine months after Tommy John elbow surgery.

To make room for Izturis on the roster, the club has a tough call to make that could involve one of a number of players. Making room for Izturis in the lineup is an even tougher task.

Former starter Odalis Perez took himself off that list Sunday. The erratic left hander saved a bullpen burned out by Saturday's 17-inning marathon, with four shutout innings of relief after a four-run fourth inning took both starter Aaron Sele and the Dodgers out of the game.

Predictably, Perez hasn't taken his demotion to the bullpen well, but he said he's learned from past mistakes and tried to take the high road.

Perez remembers in 2003 that his comments were taken out of context when he called out the offense for lack of support and became infuriated his teammate although he was right about the offense..

On Sunday, like Mighty Mouse, he saved the day. The bullpen was frazzled from Saturday night's 17-inning loss, and Sele compounded was remarkably shakey, walking three in four innings. He allowed an RBI double to Jay Payton in the second inning and a two-run triple to Bobby Kielty in the four-run fourth.

"It's tough to pitch when you're walking guys," said Sele, who has eight walks and no strikeouts in his last two starts. "I know what I was doing was something mechanical, and it's fixable but it was a battle from the first pitch on."

But Perez kept the ball and the A's down, a difficult thing to do considering they've won their last 10 and look like they may never lose again.

But Perez when he did allow three hits in an inning, former Oakland farmhand Andre Ethier drilled Nick Swisher trying to score from second base.

The Dodgers scored only twice off Joe Blanton, banging together three singles in the fifth inning with Ramon Martinez knocking in the first run, and on Nomar Garciaparra's eighth home run in the sixth inning.

Garciaparra added a single and Andre Ether also had a pair of hits for Los Angeles.

But in the weird world of the Western Division it cost them only a sole possession of first place, falling into a tie with the red-hot San Diego Padres.

Kershaw Signs--The Dodgers agreed in principle with right-hander Clayton Kershaw less than two weeks after selecting him with the seventh overall pick in this year's amateur draft. The Dodgers now have signed six of their top seven picks at a total cost of $4.025 million -- oddly enough, almost the exact amount demanded by their 2005 No. 1 pick Luke Hochevar, who refused to sign, reentered the draft and was selected by Kansas City -- but still haven't signed.

Terms were not disclosed, but Kershaw, a left-hander out of Highland Park High School in suburban Dallas, is believed to have agreed on a $2.3 million signing bonus. That is about $700,000 less than Hochevar turned down.

"I compare Kershaw to Dave Righetti," said Dodgers scouting director Logan White. "He throws from a high angle, has a power fastball, a good curveball and a feel for a changeup. He's got a natural delivery and he's a great makeup kid."

Baseball America rated Kershaw as the No. 6 player available overall, the No. 5 pitcher and the high school pitcher with the best fastball.

Kershaw has been assigned to the Dodgers' Gulf Coast League affiliate in Vero Beach. But he will visit Dodger Stadium for Tuesday night's game with Seattle, along with first-round sandwich pick Preston Mattingly, a shortstop who signed last week for $1 million. Mattingly is the son of Yankees hitting instructor Don Mattingly, the 1985 American League MVP.
  Score by innings
Dodgers 000 011 000-2
Oakland 010 400 00x-5

  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave
Furcal, SS      4 0 0 0 .249
Aybar, 3B       4 0 0 0 .274
Garciaparra, 1B 3 1 2 1 .355
Drew, DH        4 0 1 0 .280
Kemp, CF        3 0 1 0 .339
Ethier, LF      4 0 2 0 .297
Cruz, RF        3 1 1 0 .230
  Lofton, PH    1 0 0 0 .314
Alomar C        3 0 1 0 .358
  Kent, PH      1 0 0 0 .268
Martinez, 2B    3 0 1 1 .345
    Totals     33 2  9 2
    Oakland    31 5 12 5

  Errors-none. HR- Garciaparra 
(8). RBI- Martinez (13), Garciaparra 
(42). LOB- Los Angeles 6, Oakland 
6. SB- Kemp (4). DP- 4 (Aybar, 
Martinez and Garciaparra 2,
 Garciaparra, Furcal and Garciaparra; 
Garciaparra unassisted).

  Dodgers     in h r-er bb so era
Sele (L,3-2) 4.0 7  5-5  3 0 3.09
Perez        4.0 5  0-0  0 4 6.33
  HBP-Garciaparra. T- 2:16. Att- 35,077.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Manager Grady Little made some concessions in the starting lineup for Sunday's game after the five-hour, two-minute, 17-inning contest Saturday night used up five relievers and four of them -- Danys Baez, Jonathan Broxton, Takashi Saito and Joe Beimel -- worked at least two innings each. Little didn't Second baseman Jeff Kent (38) and center fielder Kenny Lofton (39) did not start, but neither did 23-year-old rookie catcher Russell Martin, who caught every pitch in the game. Instead, Sandy Alomar Jr. drew the nod on his 40th birthday, making his 10th start this year in Game 69. I addition, Brett Tomko, who was scheduled for a Sunday pregame bullpen session between starts, was backed off in case he might be needed to pitch. …The American flag that Rick Monday saved from protesters 30 years ago is on a 14-state tour with his wife, Barbaralee, and will arrived in Dodger Stadium for next month. Monday, who snatched the flag away from a pair of protesters before it could be set ablaze in the Dodger Stadium outfield while playing for the Cubs, is writing a book with his wife about the memorable episode and the way it changed Monday's life. The tour with the actual flag, along with a flag the 101st Airborne's Med-Evac Unit that flew while in Iraq, is being done in association with the "Patriot Guard," which Monday described as a volunteer group of retired and active military who provide aid to families of fallen soldiers. Monday and representatives of the group attended the funeral of a serviceman at Arlington Memorial Cemetery last week. "They played taps, had a 21-gun salute and flew four Blackhawk helicopters 150 feet above," said Monday. "I defy anyone to say it's all right to burn an American flag at that moment." …The Dodgers are off today and open a three-game series with Seattle in Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, with Brad Penny (7-1, 2.49) opposing Joel Pineiro (5-7, 5.42).

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