Dodgers Blow a Chance to Advance

Los Angeles put themselves in a position to win in Chicago, trailing 2-1 and loading the bases with one out in the fifth and seven innings but each time came up completely empty and despite Arizona's loss to Atlanta, still trail the DBacks by 3 1/2.

Chad Billingsley came into the game 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA over his last five starts and was outstanding, limiting the Cubs to a four hits and pair of runs in six innings and striking out seven. But all he got out of the game was experience and his fourth loss.

In the first inning he walked Ryan Theriot and then served up a lazy home run to Aramis Rodriguez, the ball carrying on the stiff wind into the first row of the left field bleachers only 360 feet from home plate.

Billingsley then retired 13 Cubs in a row before Mark DeRosa singled in the fifth.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers were putting their leadoff man on base in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings.

Andre Ethier led off the second with a two bagger, Matt Kemp did the same in the third, Russ Martin and Kemp singled back to back in the fourth, and Kent singled to open the eighth.

They scored only in the fifth after Kemp doubled and advanced to third on Mark Sweeney's grounder. Sweeney played in place of Loney and was 0-for-4 to drop his average to an even .100. Loney is now in an 0-for-13 slump.

Luis Maza walked, Billingsley fanned awkwardly and Juan Pierre "knocked" in the run on a looping ground ball that landed just on the infield dirt in front of the second baseman and went for a single.

Sweeney left one on in the fourth and two on in the sixth and later in the inning Blake DeWitt (breaking his league-leading 6-for-6 with the bases loaded) and Maza left the bases loaded. Ethier and Martin left one on in the seventh, Then with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, Loney struck out as a pinch-hitter after lining a shot down the right field line that was foul by inches before pinch-hitter Delwyn Young flew harmlessly to center.

The ugly numbers: 12 left on base; 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position. The two hits were credited to Kent in the first and Pierre in the fifth.

Pierre opened the game with a walk, stole second base (#19) and with two out, Kent singled off the pitcher's glove. Somehow Pierre was caught rounding third base too far and was thrown out.

Billingsley squeezed out of a bases-loaded jam of his own in the sixth with a 1-2-3 double play; Park did the same in the seventh, getting a force out to end the inning and Scott Proctor struck out the side in the eighth but served up a home run (this one flying 378 feet and out of the cozy little park) in among the "Ks."

Ryan Dempster earned his sixth win, becoming unhittable with runners on the bases. He came into the game with the sixth best ERA in the league and having received run support of a robust 6.7 per game.

Second baseman Jeff Kent was 3-for-4 upon his return to the lineup after taking a day off mired in a 6-for-55 slump.

Matt Kemp doubled twice, Ethier doubled and singled and Pierre had a pair of singles that might reach 200' if they were laid back-to-back.

The Dodgers dropped to 26-24 and 8-10 without shortstop Rafael Furcal. Chin-Lung Hu's glove is major league quality but his .185 batting average is some 200 points lower than Furcal's.

Pitchers scheduled for the second two games of the Cubs series and the first of the four games against Mets in New York:

Tuesday RHP Hiroki Kuroda (2-3, 3.48) vs. RHP Sean Gallagher (1-1, 5.68) 
Wednesday RHP Derek Lowe (2-5, 5.03) vs. RHP Carlos Zambrano (7-1, 2.47) Thursday RHP Brad Penny (5-5, 5.32) vs Claudio Vargas (1-2, 3.93
 Score by innings
Los Angeles	000 010 000-1
Chicago	        200 000 01x-3

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre lf	4  0  2  1  .292
Ethier rf	5  0  2  0  .302
Martin c	5  0  1  0  .310
Kent 2b        	4  0  3  0  .242
 Hu pr-2b	1  0  0  0  .185
Sweeney 1b   	4  0  0  0  .100
Kemp cf	        3  1  2  0  .315
DeWitt 3b	3  0  0  0  .299
Maza ss	        2  0  0  0  .438
 Loney ph	1  0  0  0  .274
 Proctor p	0  0  0  0  .000
Billingsley	2  0  0  0  .111
 Tiffee ph	1  0  0  0  .500
 Park p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Young ph	1  0  0  0  .259
 Totals	        36 1 10 1
  Chicago	30 3  7 3

 2b hits - Ethier (11), Kemp 2 (11).
RBI- Pierre (17). SB- Pierre (19).
LOB- Los Angeles 12, Chicago 6.
DP- Billingsley, Martin and Sweeney.

 Los Angeles	 in  h  r-er bb so  era
Billingsley (4-6) 6.0  4  2-2  2  7  3.68
Park	          1.0  2  0-0  1  1  2.10
Proctor	          1.0  1  1-1  0  3  5.25
 T- 2:59. Att- 41, 583.
LaRoche to Make a Switch?
Indications are that Andy LaRoche, normally a third baseman, was not promoted from Las Vegas because a] Terry Tiffee had better numbers and b]they want to "increase LaRoche's versatility and play every day while making the adjustment." General Manager Ned Colletti would only say, "There's more unknown than known."

Not long after Nomar Garciaparra went on the disabled list, we wrote that the Dodgers should be giving LaRoche some work at second base. Tony Abreu, the heir-apparent to Jeff Kent's job, has been sidelined with a mysterious stomach pain and Blake DeWitt is having a rookie of the years season so a switch by Andy would make him much more valuable.

In the Sunday game against Fresno, LaRoche played first base, replacing John Lindsey who is out with a rib-cage injury.

Expensive Injuries
Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times, pointed out that with Andruw Jones joining Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Schmidt on the disabled list, and with Esteban Loaiza having been designated for assignment, the Dodgers are paying $49.5 million in annual salaries to five players who can't play.

That's more than the total payrolls of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays, and more than twice what the first-place Florida Marlins are spending on their 25-man roster.

Jones has hit just .211/.304/.386 in 197 games since last season, essentially falling off a cliff once he turned 30 years old, yet the Dodgers will be paying him $18 million in 2009.

Quote of the Day-- Clayton Kershaw: "I shook off Martin only once and shouldn't have. Pujols doubled."

Dodger Blue Notes-- The Dodgers' all-time record on Memorial Day is 93-79-1, including a 28-22 mark in Los Angeles, according to Dave Smith of retrosheet.org. ...The Dodgers struck out a season-high 16 yesterday in the final game of the St. Louis series and it's been quite some time since they topped that feat. Clayton Kershaw fanned seven, Joe Beimel had one, Jonathan Broxton sat down three hitters and Takashi Saito whiffed a career-high five yesterday. The Dodgers previous season high was 15, set on April 24 against Arizona when today's starter, Chad Billingsley fanned a career-high 12 batters. The 16 strikeouts yesterday equal the most in a game by the Dodgers since Aug. 3, 1996 when they fanned 17 against the Braves. ...Jason Schmidt made his third rehabilitation start for the Single-A Inland Empire 66ers. Schmidt was expected to throw about 45 pitches in his recovery from shoulder surgery last season. ... The Cubs are the only major league team that has not lost more than two in a row. ... The Cubs observed a moment of silence before the game for former pitcher Geremi Gonzalez, who was killed by a lightning strike in his native Venezuela on Sunday. He won 11 games for Chicago in 1997.  

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