Hopes Slip-Sliding Away

In about 300 b.c. Plato said "The beginning is the most important part of the work", but he would have been disappointed Saturday night in Dodger Stadium when the Dodgers scored three times in the first inning, then were shut down the rest of the game and lost a painful 9-3 decision to Arizona.

The particularly galling defeat, coupled with victories by San Diego (2-1 over Pittsburgh) and Philadelphia (8-6 over Florida) but them behind the eight-ball in both the NL West and the Wild Card races. It marked the first time since Aug.10 that the Dodgers weren't at least tied for the lead in one or the other.

In the only good news of the day, Rafael Furcal, who has had a splended season, was the initial winner of the Roy Campanella Award, presented before the game by former Dodger Rookie of hte Year, Cy Young and MVP winner Don Newcombe.

Miguel Batista, who is 11-7 with three of the wins over Los Angeles, overcame a shaky start and needed only 101 pitches to complete eight strong innings for his first win since Aug. 9.

The Dodgers, who have miraculously stayed in the race although they have only a 8-12 record over their last 20 games, now must put their destiny in other hands and hope for the best with only seven games left in the season. The Dodgers have seven games left; the Padres and Phillies each have eight to play.

The Diamondbacks, who collected 17 hits while winning for just the fourth time in their last 18 road games, overcame the Dodger lead in the second inning and then scored three big runs in the ninth to take the suspense out of the game.

Four of the first five batters hit safely to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead, but Batista allowed only two more hits and none after the fourth. In fact, In fact, there was one point the fifth and sixth innings when Batista recorded five outs on seven pitches.

The 35-year-old right-hander who matched his personal single-season high in wins, had been 0-2 with five no-decisions and a 3.13 ERA in his previous seven starts.

He improved to 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers this year, including a complete-game, six-hit shutout July 19.

Rafael Furcal and Kenny Lofton singled to begin the Dodgers' first, and Nomar Garciaparra followed with a two-run double. One out later, J.D. Drew doubled to drive in Garciaparra.

No one in the crowd of 49,791 would have believed that they wouldn't score again during the evening.

Brad Penny (16-9), tied for the NL lead in wins, allowed nine hits and five runs, four earned, over a shaky five innings. He walked one, struck out seven and threw 107 pitches. Elmer Dessens was tagged for the final three runs.

Penny felt stiffness in his back in the opening inning but after a visit to the mound from manager Grady Little and assistant trainer Matt Wilson said he was good to go. But he apparently wasn't comfortable on the mound.

Arizona tied it in the second when Penny put himself in the record books by striking out four in the inning. He became the fourth Dodgers pitcher to accomplish the feat, joining Pete Richert (1962), Don Drysdale (1965) and Darren Dreifort (2003).

Russell Martin's passed ball on strike three opened the inning and was followed by an RBI double and a two run homer. The Diamondbacks used Johnny Estrada's RBI single in the third to take the lead, and made it 5-3 in the fourth.

The Diamondbacks got another run in the seventh off Mark Hendrickson on a one-out, RBI single by Jackson after pinch runner Craig Counsell stole second and took third on Martin's throwing error.

The Diamondbacks scored three times in the ninth on an RBI single by Stephen Drew against Elmer Dessens and a two-run single by Byrnes off Giovanni Carrara.

The Dodgers (81-74) will play their final regular-season home game this afternoon. They need a win just to break even on a 10-game homestand they had hoped to use to gain some ground in the two races for postseason play.
  Score by innings
Arizona      031 100 103-9
Los Angeles  300 000 000-3
  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave
Furcal, SS      4 1 1 0  .299
Lofton, CF      3 1 1 0  .298
Garciaparra, 1B 4 1 1 2  .300
Kent, 2B        4 0 0 0  .284
Drew, RF        3 0 3 1  .283
Betemit, 3B     3 0 0 0  .262
 Tomko, P       0 0 0 0  .120
 Dessens, P     0 0 0 0  .000
 Carrara, P     0 0 0 0  .000
 Loney, PH      1 0 0 0  .256
Anderson, LF    3 0 0 0  .291
Martin, C       4 0 1 0  .284
Penny, P        1 0 0 0  .185
 Ethier, PH     1 0 0 0  .311
 Hendrickson, P 0 0 0 0  .000
 Lugo, 3B       1 0 0 0  .279
    Totals     32 3  7 3
    DBacks     45 9 17 9

  Errors- Furcal, Martin. 2B- Garciaparra 
(31), Drew 2 (32)), Martin (25). RBI- 
Garciaparra 2 (86), Drew (93). LOB- 5, 
Arizona 12. SB- Furcal (36), Lofton (28). 
DP- (Garciaparra. Furcal and Penny).

  Dodgers     in h r-er bb so era
Penny (16-9)  5.0 9 5-4 1 7 1 4.21
Hendrickson   1.2 2 1-1 0 1 0 4.29
Tomko         1.1 2 0-0 0 2 0 4.95
Dessens       0.1 3 3-3 1 0 0 4.56
Carrara       0.2 1 0-0 0 0 0 4.55
  T- 3:07. Att- 49,791.
Surgery for LaRoche? --Third-base prospect Andy LaRoche, who didn't get a September callup despite an impressive Minor League season split between Double-A and Triple-A, underwent an MRI this week and is likely to require surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

LaRoche, 23, played 62 games at Jacksonville and 55 games at Las Vegas. He batted a combined .315 with 19 homers and 81 RBI in 117 games. LaRoche had a .410 on-base percentage and a .514 slugging percentage. In most categories, he posted better numbers after he was promoted to Triple-A.

Roy Smith, the club's vice president of player development, said "He's probably going to have [surgery], but it hasn't been confirmed."

Smith also said that the club is not yet prepared to announce its Minor League managers and coaching staff for the 2007 season.

Las Vegas, managed by Jerry Royster, finished third, 24 games back. Jacksonville, managed by John Shoemaker, finished first in the first half of the season, second in the second half, and went 0-3 in the playoffs. Class A Vero Beach, managed by Luis Salazar, finished fifth. Class A Columbus, managed by Travis Barbary, finished fourth. Rookie level Ogden, managed by Lance Parrish, finished second. The Gulf Coast Rookie League entry, managed by Juan Bustabad, won the Eastern Division title and lost the championship series.

Campanella Award- Shortstop Rafael Furcal was named the inaugural winner of the Roy Campanella Award, given to the Dodgers player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher. The award was voted by Dodgers uniform personnel and will be presented prior to Sunday's game.

Rickey awards-- First baseman James Loney, who split his season between Triple-A Las Vegas and the Major League club, and right-handed pitcher Mark Alexander have been named the organization's 2006 Branch Rickey Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. Both players will be honored today in a pregame ceremony prior to the Dodgers' final regular-season home game of the year against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Loney led all of Minor League baseball with a .380 batting average. In 98 games with Las Vegas, the left-handed hitting Loney had 33 doubles, eight home runs and 67 RBI. He won the Pacific Coast League batting title by 43 points.

Alexander, a 20th-round pick in 2004, is a right-handed reliever who spent the majority of the season with the Double-A Jacksonville Suns, where he posted a 3-2 record with 26 saves while compiling a 0.96 ERA. He spent July 17 to Aug. 20 playing with Las Vegas, where he went 2-1 with one save in 14 1/3 innings pitched. His 27 saves this season led all Dodgers Minor Leaguers for a second consecutive season, and he was tied for second in the Southern League (26).

Dodger Blue Notes-- Little said RHP Greg Maddux and RHP Derek Lowe will probably start the final two games of the season next weekend on three days' rest if the postseason race is undecided. "If it's still tight, and I'm sure it will be, that's what we're looking at," Little said. ... The Diamondbacks are now 2-7 at Dodger Stadium entering Sunday's finale of the three-game series - the last home game for the Dodgers this season. They were 6-3 against Los Angeles in Phoenix. ... Little said Garciaparra (sore left quad) and Jeff Kent (sore left oblique muscle) will probably start every game the rest of the way despite their injuries.

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