Dodgers Fumble Another Shot at First Place

With first place in the N.L. West so close you could taste it, it looked as if the early 2-0 lead was going to hold up but the Dodgers' bullpen failed and San Francisco scored four times in the seventh to take a 5-2 win. The Dodgers were unlucky to have hit a remarkable pitching performance and suffered a bullpen meltdown at the same time.

The Dodgers scored twice in the first inning and then the real Barry Zito showed up for the Giants, retiring 13 straight and 16 of 17 at one point, allowing six hits and striking out 10 over the first seven innings. Two Giants relievers nailed the final six outs and, despite Arizona losing yet again, the Dodgers let them off the hook.

The most remarkable Chan Ho Park allowed three hits and a single run before leaving for an unsuccessful pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh and before the Dodgers bullpen, that had posted a 1.65 ERA in the previous 11 games, took over

Joe Beimel gave up a double and after the runner was bunted to third, Brian Falkenborg came in from the bullpen and after getting the second out of the inning on a strikeout the merry go round was put into motion.

The Giants went single (RBI), walk, single (2 RBIs) and Cory Wade was hustled in to serve up a two-run double before getting the final out and leaving the bases loaded.

Zito had been 0-for-9 at home before this win.

The Giants improved the majors' worst home record to 17-27 with just their fourth win in 14 games at their ballpark. With the Diamondback's loss to San Diego, Los Angeles (42-45) could have moved into first place for the first time since the season's opening week.

Park was outstanding for the third straight outing since replacing injured Brad Penny in the rotation. The right-hander had seven strikeouts and retired 11 straight in the middle innings.

He threw a season-high 91 pitches and limited the Giants to one run and three hits over six innings, lowering his earned-run average to 2.36 in the process. The run he gave up came in the sixth, on a two-out, two-run double that cut the Dodgers' lead to 2-1.

"I was just trying to throw strikes," said Park, who has allowed two runs and 10 hits in 17 innings (1.06 ERA) since joining the rotation. "It was good except the one pitch that hurt me. … If we keep winning, we'll catch up to first place. Hopefully we'll get comfortable."

In the opening inning, Kemp doubled on the second pitch of the game and only a fan's attempt to grab the ball kept the Dodgers new leadoff man from a triple.

Andre Ethier smacked Zito's fourth pitch of the game for an RBI double and Ethier scored later in the inning on Andruw Jones' ground ball, Nomar Garciaparra and James Loney leaving runners at second and third.

Kemp singled in the second and was picked off first to end the inning and the Dodgers went into a Zito-induced funk that lasted until Garciaparra broke the spell with a bloop single in the seventh. Danny Ardoin doubled with two out and manager Joe Torre went for the jugular, pinch-hitting for the nearly unhittable Park.

Andy LaRoche smashed a shot to the second baseman to end the inning a almost the exact time that the Arizona loss was posted on the scoreboard. But the Dodgers' chances at first place this night had left the building.

On the positive side, the Dodgers received outstanding defensive plays by second baseman Jeff Kent, who saved two runs with a diving stop on a grounder in the second inning; by Chan Ho Park, who threw out the runner after a perfect bunt in the third; by first baseman James Loney for staying on the bag while reaching for Garciaparra's throw in the fourth and by Kent again in the sixth on a bouncer over Loney's head.

Kemp had two of the Dodgers hits in the first two innings. Garciaparra was one for three and Jones, who inexplicably was batting fifth in the lineup, 0-for-4, running his record to 0-for-9 since returning and dropping his overall average to .159.

"Andruw is working on his timing," said Torre. "He had better looks today. Both Garciaparra and Jones will get today off.

Russell Martin will start behind the plate. He got the "night off" with a start at third base and made another spectacular barehanded pickup of Omar Vizquel's bunt and threw him out.

Todays matchup: LHP Eric Stults (2-1, 2.21 ERA) draws the Dodgers start after having struggled in his most recent start in Houston. He then flew home the next day to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. He's 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three games (two starts) against the Giants and last faced them on the final day of the 2007 season, giving up six runs on 11 hits in four innings.

He faces the Giants' ace RHP Matt Cain (5-6, 4.13 ERA) who was overpowering in his last start against the Cubs. The righty threw eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking a season-high 10 batters. In six career starts against the Dodgers, Cain is 0-3 with a 4.88 ERA.
 Score by innings
Los Angeles	200 000 000-2
San Francisco	000 001 40x-5

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Kemp rf	        4  1  2  0  .284
Ethier lf	4  1  1  1  .281	
Martin 3b	3  0  0  0  .306
Kent 2b	        3  0  1  0  .266	
Jones cf	4  0  0  0  .155
Garciaparra ss	3  0  1  0  .263
Loney 1b	4  0  0  0  .299
Ardoin c	3  0  1  0  .211
 DeWitt ph	1  0  0  0  .259
Park p	        2  0  0  0  .000
 LaRoche ph	1  0  0  0  .206
 Beimel p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Falkenborg p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
  Totals	32 2 6 2
  San Francisco	30 5 7 5

 2n hits- Kemp (20), Ethier (21), Ardoin
(1). RBI- Ethier (36), Jones (8). CS-Kemp
(5). LOB- Los Angeles 6, San Francisco 8.

 Los Angeles	 in  h  r-er bb so  era
Park	         6.0  3  1-1  3  7  2.36
Beimel	         0.1  1  1-1  0  0  1.38
Falkenborg (0-1) 0.1  2  3-3  1  1  9.82
Wade	         1.1  1  0-0  2  1  2.36
 WP-Park. HBP- Kent. T- 2:46. Att-49,741.
Penny Out Until After Break
Brad Penny cut short his simulated game yesterday because of discomfort in his right shoulder and will not be activated before the All-Star break.

Penny said he felt some pain in his shoulder but trainer Stan Conte didn't think there was anything structurally wrong with Penny's shoulder.

The Dodgers' opening day starter, Penny last pitched in a game June 14 in Detroit, where he gave up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings.

More Rumors
With the Dodgers desperately looking for a shortstop and the July 31 trade deadline nearing, Matt Kemp and James Loney said they expect to be mentioned in trade rumors.

"You really don't pay attention to it," Loney said. "Some people's jobs are to speculate what trades could happen or what could be a good fit for a team. We have a lot of good young talent and people usually want that in trades."

Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said Friday that the emphasis of keeping the club's young nucleus intact could change "to some extent, perhaps."

Trade speculation involving the Dodgers has started, as the club has already inquired about the availability of Pittsburgh shortstop Jack Wilson and Cleveland pitcher C.C. Sabathia.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Pitcher Jason Johnson and infielder Terry Tiffee were named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star Game. ...Sports psychologist Dana Sinclair, who was hired by the Dodgers this spring, has been with the team since Friday. She will return to her home in Toronto today.