N.L. West Tightens Up after L.A. Loss

The National League West started to pinch like a $5.00 pair of shoes after the Dodgers lost to the Rockies and San Diego dropped a game to Houston. Arizona stepped into the vacuum by beating Atlanta and is now in a virtual tie for the Division lead.

 N.L. West	w-l  pct  gb
Los Angeles	57-47  .548  --
Arizona	        58-48  .547  --
San Diego	55-48  .534  1.5
Colorado	52-51  .505  4.5
The name Jeff Francis may not be a hot item on ESPN but he handed the Dodgers with relative ease, allowing seven hits and a pair of runs while working into the eighth inning and improving to 11-5 on the season. His record is 39-8 when the Rockies give him at least three runs of support.

The Dodgers trailed 2-0 after one and 5-0 after two innings and could never overcome that early margin.

Rafael Furcal beat out a bunt in the third after Los Angeles went out in order in the first three innings. Juan Pierre bunted him to second and Jeff Kent drove him in with a single to right.

Their second run came in the seventh, trailing 5-1, when Kent singled and Nomar Garciaparra doubled to lead the inning off. Andre Ethier single Kent across but Mike Lieberthal, giving Russell Martin a two-day break, fouled out and Martin made a pinch-hitting appearance and bounced to second.

Furcal and Garciaparra (his second double) reached second base in the eighth and ninth but were left there.

The rain out Friday evening was a break for the pitching-challenged staff and they kept the schedule with Brett Tomko, followed by Chad Billingsley, Sunday. The the game will be made up in September. For the Dodgers, it was their first rain out in 2007 and first overall since April 8, 2006 in Philadelphia.

Dodger fans were full of fear and apprehension before the game. Fear because first baseman James Loney, rumored to be involved in a trade with Texas, was not in the lineup and apprehension because they were not certain which Brett Tomko would be pitching.

In the rotation starting the season, Tomko was 1-5 in eight starts with a 5.96 earned run average. In his second incarnation following he all-star break, he had allowed one earned run in 11 innings (0.82) over two starts.

The fear was alleviated quickly when Loney appeared in uniform before the game. Safe, at least, for one more day.

And the apprehension was apparently well-founded after Tomko served up a two-run homer in the first and a two-run homer plus an RBI single in the second. He allowed four hits and two walks, one before each of the home runs.

But he gritted his teeth and battled on, giving the bullpen some breathing room.

He allowed a leadoff hit and a walk in the third but wriggled out of the mess. The Rockies hit him for a single in each the fourth and fifth.

In the sixth, a one-out triple and a two-out walk remained on base and then he finished with a 1-2-3 seventh and four consecutive shutout innings.

He threw 99 pitches, 55 of them for strikes.

Rudy Seanez struck out the side in the seventh but again gave up a home run. Roberto Hernandez worked around a double error by third baseman Nomar Garciaparra who fumbled a grounder, then threw it into the stands in the eighth.

Then he snared a line drive and beat the runner to the third base bag and make a perfect throw for the third out of the inning.

Nomar giveth and Nomar taketh away.

Chad Billingsley (7-0, 3.38) will oppose Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 3.75) this afternoon in the series finale.
 Score by innings
Los Angeles	000 100 100-2
Colorado	230 000 10x-6

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  1  2  0  .284
Pierre cf	3  0  0  0  .282
Sanez 1b	4  0  0  0  .197
Kent 2b	        4  0  2  1  .297
Garciaparra 3b	4  0  2  0  .285
Kemp rf	        3  0  0  0  .341
 Loney ph	1  0  0  0  .348
Ethier lf	4  0  2  1  .300
Lieberthal c	4  0  0  0  .259
Tomko p	        2  0  0  0  .000
 Martin ph	1  0  0  0  .296
 Seanez p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Hernandez p	0  0  0  0  .000
   Totals	34 2 8 2
   Rockies	32 6 9 6

 Errors- Garciaparra 2 (9). 2B- Garciaparra
2 (15). RBI- Kent (56). Ethier (44). LOB-
Los Angeles 6, Colorado 7. DP- Garciaparra.

 Los Angeles	 in  h  r-er bb so  era
Tomko (2-8)	6.0  7  5-5  4  4  5.57  
Seanez	        1.0  1  1-1  0  3  4.31
Hernandez	1.0  1  0-0  0  0  6.10
 T- 2:39. Att- 46,039.
Lowe Feeling "Better"-- Derek Lowe, who suffered a groin strain in Wednesday's game at Houston, said he was feeling a lot better. "As far as the pain goes, there isn't any," Lowe said. "I think we'll know more Friday as far as when I'm going to throw on the side again and all of that jazz." He will thow a bullpen today [Sunday] to determine the extent of the injuy.

This will allow the Dodgers to be able to take their time in making sure that Randy Wolf is healthy when he does return. They haven't decided if he will need a second rehab start, and if it's not needed, they will have to decide on which player to send down. "It's day-to-day right now," Wolf said. "The main thing is to see how I feel in the next couple of days. Everybody wants to take a conservative approach."

Happy Birthday-- On this day, one year ago, Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti traded pitcher Danys Baez, infielder Willy Aybar and cash to Atlanta for infielder Wilson Betemit.  Betemit went on to hit nine home runs in 174 at-bats for Los Angeles down the stretch and batted .500 (4-for-8) with a homer against the Mets in the playoffs. This year, Betemit is fourth on the Dodgers with 10 home runs in just 155 at-bats. The fifth-year veteran also has eight pinch hits, which is tied for seventh in the NL, including three pinch-hit homers. Since July 1, the switch hitter has raised his average .42 points, from .190 to .232.

Dodger Blue Notes-- The makeup date for Friday night's rainout has yet to be determined. It will be made up when the Dodgers return to Coors Field on Sept. 18-20. ...Former Dodger outfielder Kenny Lofton was acquired by the Indians in exchange for Class A catcher Max Ramirez on Friday. This will be the 40-year-old Lofton's third tenure with the Tribe. He played in Cleveland from 1992-96 and again from 1998-2001. ...Arizona's Randy Johnson will have surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back next Friday and will miss the rest of the 2007 season. ...Kent singled twice and now has reached base safely i 37 consecutive games, the longest streak in the major leagues this season. He also has a 10 game hitting streak. ...

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