Don't Start Printing Playoff Tickets Just Yet

The trade of Mike Piazza for a hat-full of magic beans in 1998 has long been a bone in the throat of Dodger fans over the ensuing nine years and it reared its ugly head again Tuesday night as the future Hall of Fame catcher knocked in the only run of the game in the sixth inning to give San Diego a 1-0 win and move them just two games back of the suddenly-mortal Dodgers.

Jake Peavy, with a 6-12 record and an ERA in the mid-4.00s, smothered a Dodger offense led by Julio Lugo who doubled and singled twice. Rafael Furcal and Jeff Kent collected the other two Dodger singles. Peavy lowered his ERA against them to 2.09.

The Dodgers have scored three runs in their two loses to the defending division champion Padres, who have won 10 of their last 11 against Los Angeles, and also ending the Dodgers' string of seven straight series victories. Los Angeles has lost four of six games following a 17-1 stretch.

Hendrickson (1-6), who for the most part has exhibited little to get excited about since arriving from Tampa Bay, allowed five hits over six innings, fanning four and walking one.

Along with Lugo's bat, it was one of the few positive things on another dark night in San Diego.

Hendrickson credited his success to a major mental adjustment he picked up from talking to Greg Maddux. "We've had some good talks about focusing on every pitch," he said. "I've learned more about myself as a pitcher this year than any year. The conversations I've had the last couple of days have really helped me."

The Dodgers were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, not a new situation for Hendrickson who has received two runs or less in 11 of his 23 starts. And when scoring two or less this year, the Dodgers are 2-25.

Lugo singled with two outs in the ninth, putting runners at first and second but Olmedo Saenz grounded into a forceout.

Piazza, who came into the game 0-for-26, the longest slump of his career, blistered a shot that ate up shortstop Rafael Furcal and rolled onto the outfield grass in the sixth, allowing rookie Josh Barfield to score. Barfield had dropped a leadoff double just inside the left-field foul line, moved to second on Mike Cameron's fly ball.

It was Piazza's first hit since he homered twice off Pedro Martinez in a 4-3 loss at the New York Mets on Aug. 9. However, he came into Monday's game with 18 home runs, the most by any catcher in the major leagues this season.

The Dodgers' best chance to score came in the fifth, when Lugo bounced a leadoff double over the fence in left-center. He stole third with two outs (#21), but Furcal hit an easy fly to center.

Jeff Kent drew a leadoff walk in the seventh, and the Dodgers got a break when a text-book double play was booted by Barfield off the bat of Andre Ethier. But proving that it is better to be lucky than good, the boot rolled right shortstop Manny Alexander, who dived for the ball and got his right foot on the bag in times for the force.

Brad Penny, whose earned run average this season is a gaudy 7.36, will be asked to stop the bleeding tonight.

Perhaps it's not time to start printing playoff tickets.
  Score by innings
Dodgers   000 000 000-0
San Diego 000 001 00x-1

  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave
Furcal, SS      4 0 1 0 .284
Lofton, CF      4 0 0 0 .314
Garciaparra, 1B 4 0 0 0 .326
Drew, RF        3 0 0 0 .275
Kent, 2B        3 0 1 0 .266
Ethier, LF      4 0 0 0 .339
Lugo, 3B        4 0 3 0 .303
Hall, C         2 0 0 0 .240
 Betemit, PH    1 0 0 0 .271
 Tomko, P       0 0 0 0 .120
 Broxton, P     0 0 0 0 .000
 Saenz, PH      1 0 0 0 .296
Hendrickson, P  2 0 0 0 .000
 Martin, C      1 0 0 0 .289
  Totals       33 0 5 0
  Padres       28 1 5 1

  Error- Garciaparra. 2B: Lugo (19).
LOB: 8, Padres 5. SB: Lugo (21).

  Dodgers          in h r-er bb so era
Hendrickson (5-14) 6.0 5 1-1 0 4 4.19
Tomko              1.0 0 0-0 0 2 4.61
Broxton            1.0 0 0-0 1 0  2.67
  T: 2:34. Att: 32,774.
Gagne Might Stay-- A small, bright spot of sunlight leaked into a bleak evening when closer Eric Gagne said he wants to remain with the Dodgers. He also is willing to take less money than he might get from another team in order to do so, a statement that must send shockwaves down the back of his agent, Steve Boros.

"I'm a Dodger," Gagne told MLB.com. "I want to be here. I think we have a really good relationship. But that's out of my control. I have to get healthy, and then I will go wherever someone wants me. But I think they want me here, so I don't think it will be a problem."

Asked if he would give the Dodgers a hometown discount, Gagne said, "Definitely." Gagne is expected to be fully recovered from back surgery by early December, at the latest.

The Dodgers hold a $12 million club option on Gagne for next season, but there is little chance they will exercise it. Once they have paid the $1 million buyout, it will become a matter of whether the Dodgers want to negotiate to re-sign Gagne.

"(Boras) is my agent," Gagne said. "I'm not his player."

Although the Dodgers already have received a sparkling performance from closer in Takashi Saito, candidates for the job have begun lining up, including Yhency Brazoban, Jonathan Broxton and Brett Tomko.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was cautiously interested and said "I guess we're open-minded. We'll see where the winter takes us."

Under the convoluted rules of baseball, the Dodgers can only sign him until Dec. 7 but could extend that deadline to Jan. 8 by offering him arbitration, a comittment the Dodgers won't accept without a solid agreement with Gagne and Boras that they will reject the offer.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Third baseman Wilson Betemit, who had one hit in his previous 15 at-bats, was out of the lineup for just the third time since he joined the club July 30. Catcher Russell Martin was on the bench with Hendrickson's Tampa Bay teammate Toby Hall behind the plate. Both Betemit (1-for-13) and Martin (1-for-16) have had trouble with the bat recently. …The official scorer changed the ruling on Chad Billingsley's fourth-inning wild pitch on Monday, which allowed San Diego's first run, to a passed ball on Martin, making the run unearned. The backstop said he was crossed up on the cutter, believing he called a fastball. …The list of players to perform in the Arizona Fall League is missing a familiar name. Matt Kemp is not on a roster that includes right-handed relief pitchers Brian Akin and Casey Hoorelbeke; left-handed starting pitchers Scott Elbert and Danny Muegge; catcher A.J. Ellis; shortstop Chin-Lung Hu and outfielder Anthony Raglani. …Padres RHP Chan Ho Park received two more units of blood as doctors worked to narrow down the cause of intestinal bleeding that put him back on the 15-day DL for the second time in less than a month. Park was hospitalized overnight after a recurrence of the bleeding on Monday. …The Orange County Register pointed out that Kenny Lofton who was 0-for-4 last night, is hitting a National League-best .412 (28 for 68) in the month of August. Only two Dodgers have had higher averages for a month -- Pedro Guerrero in July 1985 (.460) and Willie Davis in August 1969 (.459).

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