Dodgers Fight Back to Win One, But Lose Wolf

The first three innings resembled a slow-pitch softball game with the Braves and Dodgers tied 6-6, but the redesigned Dodger team scrapped back to win 7-6 on the strength of a remarkable bullpen, given a huge boost by newly-arrived D.J. Houlton, and Matt Kemp's tie-breaking RBI single in the seventh.

There really isn't much difference between a youth league pitcher and his major league older brother, save talent of course. When they get into trouble and you ask them if they are OK, they tell you their arm is fine, all the time struggling to lift the said arm above their shoulder.

Both Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf fall under this blanket inditement. Wolf, who was pounded for six runs in his three-innings of work, admitted he has had shoulder pain for the last month and with the all-star break coming, may be headed for the disabled list as a precaution, if nothing else.

Wolf revealed, after giving up six earned runs in three innings, that he has suffered shoulder soreness for the past month. He has an appointment for an MRI on Thursday and will certainly miss his next scheduled start Sunday against Florida and perhaps much more. The initial diagnosis by Dr. Neal ElAttrache is bursitis.

With the remarkable win, the Dodgers move to 48-36, the first time all year they have been 12 over .500, and pull within .002 the Padres while Arizona is a game and one-half behind in third place.

After the Dodgers and Braves beat each other over the head for three innings, Houlton stepped in to retire nine of 10 Atlanta batters over three shutout innings, allowing a single hit, to keep them in the game long enough for someone to drive in one more run.

His effort has made him the odd-on favorite to replace Wolf in the rotation after he retired nine of the 10 Braves batters he faced following Wolf's early exit.

However, that isn't official, although he seems an obvious choice. After the game general manager Ned Colletti, manager Grady Little, assistant GM Kim Ng and player development director DeJon Watson huddled in Little's office to determine the best choice.

"I have never had problems in my shoulder before," Wolf said. "It has been bothering me off and on for about a month. But I thought I could get it loosened up."

The Braves went in order in the first inning on four pitches but then fell on him like hungry wolves in the next two, scoring three times in each the second and third.

Wolf walked four in the third inning, including one with the bases loaded, and gave up a pair of long shots that were caught on the warning track or the damage could have been even worse.

Houlton, a Rule V pickup who had been called up for the first time in two years when Kuo went down with unspecified problems, allowed only a harmless infield single to Matt Diaz with two outs in the fifth inning.

Kemp's game-winning, two-out RBI single in the seventh inning gave the win to Rudy Seanez (6-1), it was at the least a virtual win of Houlton.

In all, the bullpen provided six shutout innings from their bullpen, five of them hitless, and Takashi Saito's 23rd save of the season in 24 opportunities. He is the only Major Leaguer in history to convert 47 of his first 50 save appearances. Saito lowered his ERA to 1.30, which is the best in the National League among hurlers with at least 30.0 innings pitched. On the year, Saito has a 14.33 strikeout to walk ratio (43 K/3 BB), the best in baseball among pitchers who have worked 30.0 innings.    

The game may have been the breakout game for Wilson Betemit that Grady Little has so patiently been waiting. The young infielder, who came into the game hitting under .200, collected three hits, including his ninth homer, and four RBI.

With the all-star game coming up next week, it seems as if the only original starters to make it safely to the break healthy will be Brad Penny and Derek Lowe. Jason Schmidt is gone for the year following shoulder surgery, Brett Tomko lost his starting job and and now Wolf. Hong-Chih Kuo, who was injured in the spring, returned but was hit hard and has been demoted to Triple-A. Mark Hendrickson begins his second time around in the rotation on Wednesday night.

The list of position players is as deep as the bullpen, as was demonstrated in the second game of the series. James Loney replaced Nomar Garciaparra in the No. 3 slot and knocked in the first run of the game. Russell Martin was given a rare night off and Mike Lieberthal whacked out a pair of hits. Outfielder Andre Ethier picked up a clutch, pinch-hit RBI and his replacement in the lineup, Matt Kemp, lined a two-out, RBI single in the seventh to win.

Veteran Jeff Kent banged a double off the center-field fence, just beating the throw to second base to set up the winning run.

But the happiest man in the clubhouse after the game was Houlton. "It was frustrating, but I have to say it made me a better player and a better person," he told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "I didn't enjoy last year, and that was my fault. I had the wrong attitude. I went about things the negative way. I switched everything this year, and I'm happier, even when I was in Las Vegas."

Lefthander Mark Hendrickson (2-3, 4.08 ERA) returns to the starting rotation on tonight when he faces Chuck James (7-7, 4.08) in a Fireworks Night game.
 Score by innings
Atlanta	        033 000 000-6	
Los Angeles	123 000 10x-7

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  1  2  0  .278
Pierre cf	4  0  0  0  .273
Loney 1b	4  0  1  1  .383
Kent 2b	        4  2  2  0  .268
Gonzalez lf	3  1  0  0  .291
Kemp rf	        4  1  2  1  .403
Betemit 3b	4  2  3  4  .208
Lieberthal c	4  0  2  0  .214
 Martin c	0  0  0  0  .306
Wolf p	        1  0  0  0  .167
 Ethier ph	1  0  1  1  .277
 Houlton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Abreu ph	1  0  0  0  .287
 Seanez p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Garciaparra ph	1  0  0  0  .271
 Saito p	0  0  0  0  .000
    Totals	35 7 13 7
    Atlanta	31 6  6 6

 2B- Kemp (3), Betemit (6). HR- Betemit (9).
RBI- Loney (15), Betemit 4 (24), Ethier (31),
S- Pierre. LSB- Furcal (10). LOB- Los Angeles
10, Atlanta (4). DP- Furcal, Kent and Loney; 
Loney, Furcal and Broxton.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Wolf	        3.0  5  6-6  4  1  4.73
Houlton	        3.0  1  0-0  0  1  0.00
Seanez (5-1)	1.0  0  0-0  0  1  3.20
Broxton	        1.0  0  0-0  1  0  2.93
Saito (sv 23)	1.0  0  0-0  0  1  1.30
 T- 2:50. Att-43,052.
In the Book-- The Dodgers drew 43,052 to the game, setting a new Guinness World Record for cumulative attendance by a Major League franchise by surpassing the 175-million mark. They became the first franchise in all of sports to reach the 175-million milestone.

Dodger Blue Notes-- The Dodgers signed two teenage pitchers out of the Dominican Republic on the first day of the international signing period for players 16 and older. The prize of the two is right-hander Jose Dominguez, a 16-year-old featuring a fastball that can touch 90 mph, along with a curveball. He signed for $50,000. "It's rare to see a kid as polished as he is," said Logan White, the Dodgers' assistant general manager of scouting. Right-hander Rubbie De La Rosa, 18, also signed. ...Dodgers catcher Mike Lieberthal received about two dozen balloons to congratulate him on the fact he was in the starting lineup for the first time since June 24 because Little decided to give ironhorse catcher Russell Martin a rare night off. The balloons were ordered by Luis Gonzalez and Olmedo Saenz. "I have very special teammates," Lieberthal said. ...Dodgers head athletic trainer Stan Conte will serve as trainer for the NL All-Star team next week at San Francisco, where he spent 15 seasons with the Giants' staff and the last seven as head athletic trainer and physical therapist. ...Infielder Ramon Martinez made his first appearance on a rehab assignment for Las Vegas last night and went 1-for-2 with a double, a walk, an RBI and two runs scored while playing second base. Martinez is recovering from a back injury.

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