Wait 'Till Next Year

The Maddux Magic failed at just the wrong time, in front of a full house at Dodger Stadium and trailing New York 0-2 in the National League Division Series. He was tagged early for four runs, the Dodgers battled back to take the lead but five unanswered runs ended the rollercoaster year for Grady Little and his remarkable troupe.

After a closing streak that saw the Dodgers post a 41-19 record down the stretch, winning 10 of 11 games and seven in a row to end the season, they were unable to get their batting and pitching on the same page.

Twice they scored five runs but each time they were outscored. When they allowed two earned runs in the second game, they could put only one on the board.

Long-time observers will tell you that you can sense when a team of destiny is playing. Balls hit off the end of the bat fall in for RBI singles, line drives by the opponents and converted into double plays and boarderline pitches go to the team that will eventually win.

New York was just that sort of team throughout the series and particularly Saturday night on Elysian Park Avenue.

But a couple of youngsters and a couple veterans did themselves proud in the final game.

James Loney, filling in for Nomar Garciaparra after he tore his quad muscle in the second game in New York, singled three times, walked with the based loaded and knocked in three run.

Russell Martin singled three times, scored twice and threw out Jose Reyes, speedy Mets leadoff man, attempting to steal.

Chad Billingsley worked a scoreless inning, facing just three Mets and ending the frame with a strikeout.

Jeff Kent came through like the warrior he is, collecting four hits -- becoming the first Dodger to get four hits in a Division Series -- banging a two-run homer into the left-field seats and missed knocking in another run when his drive to left field bounced into the stands as Kenny Lofton scampered around from first to home, the hit going as a ground rule double and Lofton returned to third.

Takashi Saito pitched and inning and 1/3, keeping Dodger hopes alive and striking out a pair, including a geriatric battle with 48-year-old Julio Franco, who broke in the major leagues about the same time Loney, Broxton and Billngsley were born.

It was a disappointing start for Greg Maddux. His record in the last eight playoff games is 1-5, avoiding last night's loss because the Dodgers rallied to take the lead.

He took the Dodgers a long ways down the road to the post season and perhaps it should have been no surprise that the 40-year-old super star couldn't perform magic every time out.

"We just fell a little short. That's how it goes sometimes. But this season was a pleasure for me. I enjoyed every minute of it," Maddux said. "It's a first-class organization, a lot of guys with good baseball sense, and there's a lot of respect and class in this clubhouse, which is nice to see. We've had a great year, and to finish this way is kind of tough to take."

In a game with enough rainbow hits to make a Leprechaun giddy, Maddux was tagged with loopers, bloopers, arching drives that looked like they had been hit with a rolled up newspaper.

But they tallied three runs in the first inning and he gave up another run in the third.

The Dodgers had trouble solving Steve Trachel's big curve ball, only breaking through in the fourth inning when Marlon Kent singled, Martin beat out and infield hit and Wilson Betemit looped a single to center to load the bases.

Loney then drove a two-run single into left field and with runners on first and third with one out, it looked like the Dodgers would get back in things.

But pinch-hitter Andre Ethier drove a shot right back at reliever Pedro Feliciano and he easily doubled Betemit off third.

Los Angeles took the lead in the fifth, Kent homering after Anderson banged a two-out single. J.D. Drew got his only hit of the night, Martin singled again and Betemit walked.

Loney walked to force in the lead run as L.A. moved in front 5-4. But Garciaparra, pinch-hitting, bounced back to the pitcher to end things.

New York scored three times off Jonathan Broxton, following a leadoff double by Shawn Green with three RBI singles, none of which was much more than 125-feet each.

The Mets tagged Brett Tomko for another pair in the eighth, one of which was unearned on an error by Betemit.

Saito closed out the eighth and worked a perfect ninth.

The Dodgers' two tablesetters, Furcal and Lofton, were a combined 3-for-24 in the series with one RBI and one run scored. Lofton didn't get his first hit until he singled in the sixth inning Saturday night and Drew had one hit, leaving seven men stranded on base.

Even with the Dodger rally in the fourth and fifth, it seemed apparent this night, and the series, would be the Mets and the remarkable Los Angeles season that started with an exhibition game in Jacksonville late in February, was about over.

"We just got outplayed -- pitching, hitting, defense -- but there's no sense in being specific," Kent said. "It doesn't really matter. We got beat by a team that was playing better baseball than us.

"We got, what, 16 hits and scored five runs? That's one you shake your head at and wonder why. They got two less hits than we did and scored almost twice as many runs."

It was an amazing ride and even the bitter-sweep by the Mets can't change the feeling that things have turned around.

Wait 'Till Next Year takes on a different meaning this time. You can actually believe it.
  Score by innings
New York     301 003 020-9
Los Angeles  000 230 000-5

  Dodgers       ab r h bi ave
Furcal, SS       4 0 1 0 .182
Lofton, CF       5 0 1 0 .077
Anderson, LF     5 1 2 0 .308
Kent, 2B         5 2 4 2 .615
Drew, RF         5 1 1 0 .154
Martin, C        5 1 3 0 .333
Betemit, 3B      4 0 1 0 .500
Loney, 1B        4 0 3 3 .750
Maddux, P        1 0 0 0 .000
 Ethier, PH      1 0 0 0 .000
 Hendrickson, P  0 0 0 0 .000
 Garciaparra, PH 1 0 0 0 .222
 Broxton, P      0 0 0 0 .000
 Billingsley, P  0 0 0 0 .000
 Saenz, PH       1 0 0 0 .000
 Tomko, P        0 0 0 0 .000
 Saito, P        0 0 0 0 .000
 Martinez, PH    1 0 0 0 .333
    Totals      42 5 16 5 
    Mets        39 9 14 8 

  Error-Loney, Betemit. 2B- Kent (1). 
HR- Kent (1). Loney 3 (3), Kent 2 (2). 
LOB- Los Angeles 13, New York 9. 
SB-Furcal (2). DP-2 (Furcal and Loney 2).

  Dodgers in h r-er bb so era
Maddux        4.0 7 4-4 2 0  9.00
Hendrickson   1.0 0 0-0 1 0  0.00
Broxton (0-1) 1.0 4 3-3 1 2 13.50
Billingsley   1.0 1 0-0 0 1  0.00
Tomko         0.1 2 2-1 1 0  9.00
Saito         1.2 0 0-0 0 3  0.00
  Balk- Tomko. T- 3-51. Att- 56,293.
Biemel Injured in Bar--Dodgers left-hander Joe Beimel admitted he was in a New York bar early Tuesday morning when he cut his pitching hand on a broken glass and not in his hotel room, as he had told team officials.

"I realize nothing good happens at a bar after a certain time," Beimel said by telephone from Los Angeles. "When I did it I was just embarrassed. I realized I shouldn't have been there at that time. I should have just come out and said where I was."

Because the wound would not close adequately, the Dodgers left Beimel, one of their most effective relievers, off their roster for the National League Division Series against the left-leaning New York Mets lineup.

As of Thursday evening, Beimel had not contacted Dodgers management to reveal what actually occurred.

Beimel had plastic surgery Thursday in Los Angeles to close a gash on the little finger. He said his doctor advised him not to throw for several days but hoped he would be healed if the Dodgers were to advance to the NL Championship Series.

He said the accident happened at about 2-30 a.m. He initially tried to stem the bleeding in the bar's bathroom. When that failed, he took a taxi to the team hotel, where he continued those efforts. After a time, he said, he called one of the Dodgers trainers to his room.

Beimel tested his finger while throwing late that morning, before rosters were due to be submitted to the league, but the stitches did not hold. Rookie Chad Billingsley took his place and Beimel returned to Los Angeles.

"I just feel bad for the team," he said. "I let everybody down. I feel bad for my teammates, the coaches, everybody in the organization. I feel really bad about it. I should have just been honest."

Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said he had not tried to reach Beimel or his agent since the incident.

"We'll deal with it when the season is over," Colletti said. "I don't want to make a distraction out of this thing."

Beimel, 29, a nonroster invitee to spring training, had his best big league season, posting a 2.96 ERA in 70 innings over 62 appearances. He had a 1.32 ERA in 14 September appearances.

"He broke a curfew, and he broke a glass," Manager Grady Little said. "We didn't talk long. He didn't want to know anything I had to say and I didn't want to hear anything he had to say at the time."

Dodger Blue Notes-- Dodgers bullpen coach Dan Warthen, previously the pitching coach in Detroit, Seattle and San Diego, has emerged as a possible candidate to fill the pitching coach vacancy with the Astros.

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