Despite the traditional Lakers-Celtics battle in the final round of the NBA playoffs, 44,988 showed up at Dodger Stadium to see Los Angeles defense turn in a number of "Play of the Day" nominations as Kent, shortstop Chin-lung Hu and center fielder Matt Kemp all make spectacular plays to keep the game in hand.
Saito, pitching for the first time in six days, gave up a tie-breaking RBI single to Kosuke Fukudome in the ninth. Kemp struck out against Kerry Wood to end the game, leaving the bases loaded and Los Angeles lost for the 11th time in their past 14 games.
Despite the comeback from four runs down, they still went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and left six runners in scoring position while falling to the Cubs, who came into the game having won 10 of their last 11, and who by a margin of only six runs have now beaten L.A. four times in four tries this season.
"This has been frustrating, obviously," manager Joe Torre said in a classic understatement. "We're not scoring a lot of runs. We haven't stopped fighting, and we haven't stopped playing. These guys are working very hard, and it's just frustrating to come up empty like that."
The Dodgers (28-32) fell four games behind idle, division-leading Arizona in the National League West, missing yet another opportunity to gain lost ground when the Diamondbacks have been struggling just as badly.
And the Giants are only three games behind the Dodgers now in third place.
Saito (3-2) who had squandered a 1-0 lead in Chicago just eight games earlier, allowed a double to right by Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee struck out and Aramis Ramirez was hit on the right elbow, although replays seemed to indicate the pitch had missed Ramirez completely.
"He definitely has a career in Hollywood," Russell Martin said of Ramirez's theatrics. "I'm not sure, it could have nicked the bat." Then Fukudome bounced a single into right field to break the tie.
The Dodgers bullpen has blown four saves and suffered three defeats in the last 12 games. Saito has been scored upon in two of his last three outings after allowing runs in only three of his previous 20.
James Loney led off he last of the ninth with a double to left-center, Wood hit pinch-hitter Terry Tiffee and walked Juan Pierre to load the bases with two outs before striking out Kemp, who broke his bat over his knee in frustration.
Chad Billingsley gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks but struck out eight, in fact, eight of his first 10 outs were by strikeout, but he allowed four runs and two homers (Fukudome and Mark DeRosa) in five innings. Cory Wade and Scott Proctor held off the Cubs until the ninth.
The twenty-three year old Billingsley came into the game 4-2 with a 1.80 earned-run average over his last seven starts but was a bit off on this night.
The Dodgers fans roared as if they had won the game when when Chin-lung Hu's fifth-inning double drove in Blake DeWitt for their first run. Some of even stood and applauded. Hu scored on a single to right by Mark Sweeney to pull the Dodgers to within 4-2.
Kent's first home run, which came in the sixth, moved the Dodgers to within a run and his second shot in the eighth, his team-leading eighth of the season, completed the comeback.
Kent has four homers in his last seven games after missing two games with a stiff back. Torre suggested that Wednesday's day off was a contributing factor, but the outspoken Kent disagreed.
"I believe it has nothing to do with being fresh," said the 40-year-old Kent. "Most of the days off come with a day game after a night game. The legs don't have the rebound time, I admit that. I don't think I'm a .240 hitter because I'm not fresh."
Matt Kemp spoke for the entire team when he said, "Right now, I'm a little bit mad. I had a chance to help the team win and didn't come through. I should have driven in one or two runs."
The Dodgers slipped to a season-low four games below .500 at 28-32.
Score by innings Chicago 011 200 001-5 Los Angeles 000 021 010-4 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Pierre lf 4 0 0 0 .277 Kemp cf 5 0 0 0 .303 Ethier rf 4 0 1 0 .295 Kent 2b 4 2 2 2 .250 Martin c 2 0 0 0 .280 Loney 1b 4 0 1 0 .280 DeWitt 3b 4 1 2 0 .298 Hu ss 3 1 1 1 .172 Billingsley p 1 0 0 0 .091 Sweeney ph 1 0 1 1 .172 Park pr 0 0 0 0 .000 Wade p 0 0 0 0 .000 Young ph 1 0 0 0 .289 Proctor p 0 0 0 0 .000 Saito p 0 0 0 0 .000 Tiffee ph 0 0 0 0 .250 Totals 33 4 8 4 Chicago 37 5 11 5 2b hits- Ethier (13), DeWitt (7), Loney (11). 3b hits- Hu (2). HR- Kent 2 (8). RBI- Hu (7), Sweeney (3), Kent 2 (27). S- Hu. LOB- Los Angeles 7, Chicago 11. Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Billingsley 5.0 7 3-3 3 8 3.57 Wade 2.0 1 0-0 0 1 1.45 Proctor 1.0 1 0-0 1 1 5.40 Saito (3-2) 1.0 2 1-1 0 2 2.19 HBP- by Saito, Tiffee. T- 3:07. Att- 44,988.Kemp Appeals
Outfielder Matt Kemp has been suspended for four games and fined an undisclosed amount for his part in a bench-clearing brawl in the eighth inning of the opening game of the series against Colorado. Kemp appealed the ruling. In announcing the penalties, Bob Watson, Major League Baseball's vice president for on-field operations, blamed Kemp for "fighting and inciting the bench-clearing incident," when he shoved Colorado catcher Yorvit Torrealba. Torrealba, who responded by shoving Kemp in the throat, was suspended three games and also fined. "I guess I feel it was as much his fault as it was my fault," Kemp said. "I don't feel I should get more. That's why I'm appealing."
Kershaw Starts Tuesday
After saying rookie Clayton Kershaw would probably be skipped when off-days allow the team to do so, Dodgers manager Joe Torre changed his mind and said that Kershaw would take his normal turn in the rotation at San Diego. "Everybody's going to get the extra day of rest this time around, and we'll figure it out after that," Torre said.
The Dodgers will need a fifth starter every turn through the rotation through the All-Star break after next week, although injured starter Jason Schmidt or current relievers Hong-Chih Kuo or Chan Ho Park could get a call to preserve Kershaw's arm.
"This time around, this is what we're doing," Torre said. "Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt has it mapped out in coordination with the organization's thought process and the innings pitched, so that's the plan this time around
Indian River Signs 'Agreement'
Indian River County Administrator Joe Baird said he and a major league baseball team, sources say the team is the Baltimore Orioles, who have trained in Fort Lauderdale since 1996, have a draft agreement outlining future plans for the team to replace the Dodgers at Vero Beach.
Once the "memorandum of understanding" is finalized, it would go to the county commissioners for approval, and the partnership between the county and team would be officially announced.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Rafael Furcal resumed taking ground balls at shortstop. ...Jason Schmidt threw a side session and is scheduled to make a rehab start on Sunday with Inland Empire or Las Vegas. ...The Cubs took a one-game advantage in the all-time series with the Dodgers and now lead 1,011-1,010. ...The Dodgers are off to a 1-4 start this month, and are in search of their first winning June since 2003, when they went 14-11. ...On June 5, 1977, the Dodgers retired Hall of Fame Manager Walter Alston's No. 24. Alston led the Dodgers to a 2,040-1,613 record over 23 seasons (1954-76) and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983. Over that time, the club won seven National League pennants, four World Series titles (1955, 1959, 1963, and 1965), while Alston was named the Sporting News Manager of the Year three times. ...Middle relief has been anything but a weakness for the Dodgers recently. Hong-Chih Kuo has thrown 11.1 consecutive scoreless innings over his past four appearances, and Chan Ho Park has given up just one run in 6.1 innings during his last two appearances. Park has allowed just four earned runs in his last 24.2 innings over 10 games, dating back to April 25, good for a 1.46 ERA and has been especially good at home on the year, compiling a 0.56 ERA. Kuo has allowed just two runs in 22.1 innings over his last eight games (0.81 ERA), dating back to April 30.