Early Dodger Lead Melts Away

The Dodgers' desperate search for starting pitching has had them checking out David Well, knowing full well you can't catch a team by picking up a pitcher they have themselves released. But Brett Tomko, who isn't quite as bad as his 2-11 record indicates, let an early 3-0 lead, and the game, slip through his fingers.

Arizona and San Diego lost but Colorado won and moved into a third place tie the the Dodgers. While Los Angeles didn't lose any ground, but it lost a game off the schedule and a great opportunity to gain on the leaders.

The Dodgers scored a pair of runs in the first, a singleton in the second on Russell Martin's 15th homer and added their final run on James Loney's sixth home run in the seventh but they didn't get a hit that and they never got a man on base after Furcal walked with two outs in that same inning.

The Dodger offense shot themselves in the foot, running themselves out of three different innings. Luis Gonzalez ended a two-run first inning when he was caught on a delayed steal with Martin at the plate. Juan Pierre was unable to stretch a double into a triple in the third inning. And Martin made the final out of the fourth inning, trying to go first to third on Shea Hillenbrand's single. Both of them were gunned down by former Dodger Jayson Werth, now playing right field for the Phillies.

But the spotlight glared on Tomko after retired the first six batters he faced. Werth's leadoff single in sparked a two-run Phillie rally and the Phillies trimmed the 3-0 lead to 3-2. In the top of the fourth, Aaron Rowand homered and the Phillies were in front to stay, 4-3. He allowed the first three batters to reach in the fifth -- one on a throwing error by third baseman Shea Hillenbrand -- then walked in a run, after which he shouted at plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth.

He was replaced by Hendrickson who wriggled out of the bases load, no out mess, and it remains to be seen if those were Tomko's final words as a starting pitcher this season.

Manager Grady Little, like many who have watched him pitch this season, can not explain why Tomko is losing so regularly. "Right now, Tomko is one of our five starters," he said. "He has good stuff. Sometimes, it amazes me that he gets hit."

And at about the same time all of this was happening, owner Frank McCourt and general manager Ned Colletti were in Jacksonville watching the Suns battle Montgomery; more specifically watching right-handed pitching prospect James McDonald battle through a tough, five-inning start in which he got tagged for three runs (two earned) in the first in a 3-1 loss but still struck out seven. Even after the loss his record is 6-2 with an ERA of 1.65.

McDonald, who was drafted as a pitcher, switched to the infield, then moved back on the mound, started the season at Class A Inland Empire, where lack of run support saddled him withe a 6-7 record before moving to AA Jacksonville and into consideration for a slot in the Dodger rotation.

McDonald, 22, who has struck out 166 batters in 130.2 innings this season between the two minor league affiliates and his next expected turn on the mound would be Saturday night when Los Angeles tangles with the Mets on National television, bringing to mind the Edward Jackson winning debut against Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondback's on the kid's birthday in September of 2003.

Unless Arizona dies down the stretch, it is best to forget about the Diamondbacks for now. The Dodgers need to stay in the National League Wild Card race and the Phillies and San Diego lead them by 2 1/2 games right now.

The Dodgers came into this game having won four of five and needing to keep that momentum. They moved Ethier into the third spot in the order and he had a first-inning RBI double. Luis Gonzalez knocked in the second run in the first inning.

But everything focused on Tomko. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said it's all about execution. "Every game, there's two or three innings where key pitches have got to be made," he said. "When you make those pitches, you get through that and if you don't, it's when you give up runs."

Derek Lowe (9-11, 3.45 ERA) faces the Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels (14-5, 3.50 ERA) tonight.
 Score by innings
Los Angeles	210 000 100-4
Philadelphia	002 210 00x-5

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	3  1  1  0  .274
Pierre cf	3  0  1  0  .288
Ethier rf	3  1  1  1  .295
Kent 2b 	4  0  0  0  .284
Gonzalez lf	3  0  1  1  .278
Martin c	3  1  1  1  .292
Loney 1b	4  1  1  1  .305
Hillenbrand 3b	4  0  1  0  .257
Tomko p	        2  0  0  0  .000
 Hendrickson p	0  0  0  0  .038
 Saenz ph	1  0  0  0  .186
 Seanez p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
   Totals	30 4 7 4
   Phillies	29 5 9 5

 Error- Hillenbrand (2). 2B- Ethier (26), Pierre (17)
HR- Martin (15), Loney (6). RBI- Ethier (49), Martin
(72), Loney (27). S- Pierre. CS- Gonzalez (1). LOB-
Los Angeles 4, Philadelphia 7. DP- Kent, Furcal and

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Tomko (2-11)	4.0  6  5-4  3  1  5.80
Hendrickson	2.0  1  0-0  0  1  5.09
Seanez	        1.0  1  0-0  0  0  3.50
Broxton	        1.0  1  0-0  0  2  2.24
 HBP- Martin. T- 2:52. Att- 35,326.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Former Dodgers outfielder Jayson Werth, now with Philadelphia, was hit on the wrist in the first exhibition game in 2005 and missed most of the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He had been penciled in as the Dodgers left fielder after hitting 16 home runs and driving in 47 in only 290 at-bats in 2004. Finally, surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, repaired the wrist. Werth, who was 2-for-3 and threw out two runners at third base in the series opener. He came in hitting .255 in 59 games and had more or less become the everyday right fielder with another former Dodger, Shane Victorino, on the disabled list. After the 2006 season, the Dodgers non-tendered Werth to avoid going to arbitration and wound up offering him only a minor-league contract but he chose free agency and signed with the Phillies. ...While the Dodgers have some interest in veteran left-hander David Wells, who was released by San Diego, there is little indication if they will sign him. Wells, 44, told the San Diego Union-Tribune his release would probably mean the end of his 21-year career in the majors. But the Dodgers could get Wells for the rest of the season for only about $87,000 - a prorated share of the major-league minimum - with the Padres picking up the remainder of his $1 million salary. ...Left-hander Randy Wolf (shoulder) was scheduled to throw off a mound and he had announced that if he felt pain, he would shut himself down for the rest of the season. ... First baseman Nomar Garciaparra, who said his strained left calf no longer hurts when he climbs the stairs at his home, hopes to test it by running for the first time during this series. ...Third-base prospect Andy LaRoche, nursing a back disk problem, has missed two weeks of games at Triple-A Las Vegas, but is expected to return to action this week. ...In a number of roster moved The Devil Rays called up INF Joel Guzman. ...The Cardinals signed infielder Miguel Cairo to a minor league contract and reinstated catcher Kelly Stinett from the restricted list and sent him to the minors. The Cubs designated catcher Koyie Hill for assignment. ...The Dodgers have signed a new, three-year agreement with Liberman Broadcasting Inc. to produce their Spanish-language broadcasts beginning next season. Former Dodger All-Star pitcher Fernando Valenzuela provides analysis alongside Jaime Jarrín and Pepe Yñiguez for more than 100 games each season....Veteran sportswriter Joe Reaves, who has worked in recent years for the Arizona Republic, has been hired by the Dodgers to lend his international baseball expertise to the front office. Reaves will continue to live in the Phoenix area. His new position will not include work specifically in scouting or player development, but will be more administrative in nature. His official job title has yet to be determined.

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