Schmidt Pitches Brilliantly in Return

The logjam at the top of the N.L West broke up last night and when the waters quieted, the Dodgers found themselves in third place despite a six-inning, one-hit performance by Jason Schmidt, fresh off the disabled list. Rudy Seanez allowed the other hit in the eighth inning and it cost him the loss.

After seven weeks on the disabled list for bursitis in his pitching shoulder, Schmidt still wasn't lighting up the speed gun but, as was demonstrated the evening before in Pittsburgh, even a club well below the .500 mark can hit a 99-mph fastball but if you can hit your spots, you can earn the $47 million the club invested in you.

But the guy can't hit enough to help the offensive-challenged Dodgers who left nine on base and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, squandering a spectacular re-debut of a pitcher they felt would be the number one man on the staff,

Some 31,703 delighted fans saw their Padres collect only two hits but score just enough in the eighth inning to win what has been called the first "big" series of the season.

However, Schmidt tempered his remarkable performance with the fact the club didn't win.

"I'm happy with the way it went," Schmidt said. "But I think we would have been better overall to come out with the win. The way this road trip has been, some guys were probably worn out. It was a tough day, coming in as late as they did."

In another of those scheduling freaks that makes you think it is set up with an Ouija Board, the road trip consisted of Washington, Pittsburgh and ... San Diego?

The team sent Schmidt back on a commercial flight from Pittsburgh early Monday afternoon and the rest of the team took a late-night, cross-country charter and arrived at about 1:30 in the morning.

Multiply that with the mastery of Chris Young who choked off the Dodgers on three hits over seven innings and his team scratched out a run on an RBI single by Marcus Giles off Rudy Seanez (2-1) to score the game's only run.

So the Dodgers are looking up at the Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, both of whom now lead the Dodgers by a half-game in the National League West. It is the first time since April 30 the Dodgers haven't held at least a share of first place and the first time in almost two months that they have been worse than second.

Chances to win the game came in bunches but they left runners in scoring position in the first, second, fifth and seventh innings. They ran themselves out of a golden opportunity in the seventh, when Russell Martin, off and running on Andre Ethier's single to right, fell rounding second and was tagged after a rundown.

The only hit Schmidt allowed was an infield single that Jeff Kent gloved but couldn't make a play on by Geoff Blum in the second inning. He retired the first five and the last seven batters he faced, with another six in a row in between. He used 86 pitches, four less than the limit set for him. Little said that limit would be lifted in his next start Sunday against Toronto.

While the loss was painful, Schmidt's spectacular return solidifies if not the best, one of the best rotations in the league. He said he could have gone further in the game but Little was determined he was finished in the seventh and would have made the same decision had the Dodgers taken the lead.

With Takashi Saito on a hopefully-short sabbatical due to a tight hamstring, Seanez pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, but in the eighth he struck out Hiram Bocachica, then hit pinch-hitter Russell Branyan on the toe with a 2-2 pitch. Branyan stole his first base of the season, setting the stage for Marcus Giles' game-winning single to center.

Los Angeles had a legitimate opportunity in the seventh inning after Martin' led off with a single. He broke for second twice but Andre Ethier fouled the ball off each time before he flied out.

During Tony Abreu's at-bat, Martin broke for second four times. All the running wore Martin's legs down and he fell rounding second and was tagged on Abreu's single.

Pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit walked to bring up Juan Pierre, who bounced the first pitch to first base. Pierre was 0-for-4 and looked at only seven pitches. Jeff Kent was hitless and is now 2-for-35.

The Padres won for the eighth time in 10 games. It was just their third victory in seven games this season against Los Angeles.

Tonight's game features Randy Wolf (7-3) against the old master, Greg Maddux (4-3). The Padres are 10-6 when facing lefthanders this season.
  Score by innings
Los Angeles	    000 000 000-0
San Diego	    000 000 01x-1

 Los Angeles	ab r b  h  bi  ave
Pierre cf	4  0  0  0  .269
Furcal ss	3  0  0  0  .298
Garciaparra 1b	4  0  1  0  .280
Kent 2b	        3  0  0  0  .255
Gonzalez lf	4  0  1  0  .283
Martin c	3  0  1  0  .314
Ethier rf	4  0  1  0  .276
Abreu 3b	4  0  1  0  .333
Schmidt p	1  0  0  0  .000
 Betemit, ph	0  0  0  0  .189
 Seanez p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Betemit p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Seanez ph	1  0  0  0  .208
   Totals	31 0 5 0
   San Diego	26 1 2 1

 S- Schmidt. SB- Martin (9), Furcal (7).
LOB- Los Angeles 9, San Diego 5. 

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Schmidt	        6.0  1  0-0  3  4  .476
Seanez(2-1)	1.1  1  1-1  0  2  3.03
Beimel	        0.2  0  0-0  0  0  3.51
 HBP- by Seanez. T- 2:36. Att- 31.703.
The New York Sun opined, "Alex Rodriguez needs to be traded for the only reason that matters -- the Yankees have a chance to be a better team without him. The Dodgers represent an especially tempting target. They have a ready third base prospect in Andy LaRoche, a potentially useful, Lyle Overbay-style first baseman in James Loney, the power-hitting outfielder Matt Kemp, and one of the best pitching prospects in the minors in Low-A lefty Clayton Kershaw." That's a trade the Yankees used to make with Kansas City some years ago. Whomsoever wrote that must have been taking too many anti-histamines for his allergies. We could, of course, throw in Dodger Stadium and perhaps get Derek Jeter in the same trade.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Closer Takashi Saito played catch for the first time since injuring his left hamstring Sunday. Saito said through an interpreter that he probably will miss this series, but that he isn't likely to go onto the 15-day disabled list. ... Rookie reliever Eric Hull was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Jason Schmidt to come off the DL. ... "I kind of know what the situation is and what's probably going to happen," said Hull, whose wife had flown to Pittsburgh from Yakima, Wash., to watch him. "That (debuting) is something I want to get done, but it's not a huge deal." ...The MRI on reliever Yhency Brazoban's right shoulder showed no serious damage. Brazoban, who is on the 15-day DL, is expected to begin throwing next week.

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