Dodgers Go Flat on Brink of Clinching

Someone who attended the G-20 Summit Conference in Pittsburgh and stopped by to watch a baseball game would have had difficulty determining which team had the best record in baseball and which one had lost 23 of their last 26 games. The Dodgers were unable to handle a constant parade of Pirate relief pitchers and dropped a deadly vanilla 3-1 decision.

Since Atlanta beat Washington, the Dodgers didn't clinch a playoff slot and their magic number remains at one. Their record against the two worst teams in the National League, Washington and Pittsburgh, slid to 2-2 over the past week.

Los Angeles had won 11 of 15 and the Pirates had lost nine of 10, and 23 of 27 during their worst slide since they dropped 24 of 28 in 1985 and are five losses away from 100. They have already wrapped up their 17th consecutive losing season.

Two costly infield errors by the Dodgers led to all of Pittsburgh's runs, handing John Garland (11-12 overall and 3-1 with Los Angeles) an undeserved loss, his first in five starts for Los Angeles.

"These are the tough games to get up for at the end of the season, when you're playing a team that's not going anywhere," Garland said. "The crowd's definitely not going to get you going. These are definitely games you need to dig deep. It's easy to get up for the games when somebody's trying to track you down or there are 43,000 in the stands going crazy."

Pirates manager John Russell used five relief pitchers to beat the Dodgers in Pittsburgh for only the eighth time in 31 games since PNC Park opened in 2001.

In that respect, it looked much like a spring training game.

Blake DeWitt, playing third base again for Casey Blake while he continued to rest his 35-year-old tender hamstring, threw a potential double play ball off the bat of former Dodger Andy LaRoche, into right field in the first inning after a leadoff single.

A sacrifice fly gave the Pirates their first run.

DeWitt got the run back in the second when he bounced a ground rule double into the left field seats and scored on Orlando Hudson's double.

Brad Ausmus ripped a shot up the middle but Delwyn Young, a former Dodger, made a diving stop to save a run and Garland struck out to end the inning. During that brief burst, Los Angeles used up three of the seven hits they would garner during the game.

First baseman James Loney took his eye off the ball to throw to second on another potential double play ball in the third inning and the ball glanced off the thumb of his bare hand and rolled into short right field.

A two-out single scored two more unearned runs and ended the offensive part of the contest.

Matt Kemp singled to lead off in the fourth but was picked off first base and as a result, DeWitt's second double of the game, a shot into right-center field. Kemp would have scored easily because the outfield is large enough to stage the battle of Gettysburg with the entire original cast.

Eight Dodgers went out in succession before Ausmus' second single of the game game. Manny Ramirez hit into a double play to end the eighth after Rafael Furcal had led off with the final Dodgers hit. Ramirez ended the evening 0-for-4 as did Andre Ethier.

Between Ramirez and Ethier, the two have gone 3-for-17 in the last three games. Matter of face, the two non-regular starters, DeWitt and Ausmus, had four of the Dodgers' seven hits.

"It certainly something that's unexpected," manager Joe Torre said of the defensive mistakes. "You certainly can't expect good things to happen when you don't catch the ball. You give the opposition extra outs and anything's likely to happen."

Hopefully, the Dodgers will clinch a playoff slot before taking the field today, when the Braves play a day game at Washington. An Atlanta loss will assure the Dodgers a third playoff appearance in the past four years for the first time since 1963-66.

The Dodgers' magic number to clinch their second consecutive National League West title is still four after the Rockies scored a run in the ninth to beat St. Louis 2-1.

The Dodgers refused to blame this loss on the travel hassles they encountered on the charter trip here from Washington after Thursday night's 7-6 win over the Nationals.

However, the club was held up at Dulles International Airport in Washington for two hours while every bag was addressed by bomb-sniffing dogs despite the fact that they had all been checked before they left Pittsburgh.

The club bused into Washington from the airport, only for the downtown area to be sealed off with every off-ramp closed. An unsuspecting bus driver took 45 minutes to navigate through the gauntlet of security checkpoints before reaching the team hotel around 3:30 a.m.

And their team hotel was overflowing with international security, as it served as the headquarters for the delegations from France, Austria and Turkey.

Had the authorities watched the game, they would ave realized that the team was not about to terrorize anyone.

"I didn't get out of bed until 2," said Jon Garland, who should have been sent on to Pittsburgh two days before.

Garland went six innings without allowing an earned run, striking out six with one walk and lowering his earned run average to 1.91 after arriving from Arizona where it was 4.26.

James McDonald, Scott Elbert and Ron Belisario combined to hold the Pirates to a single hit over the final two innings.

Andre Ethier summed it up perfectly when he said, "Our offense was awful tonight." Ethier, Ramirez, Kemp and Loney went a combined 1-for-16. Ramirez is 2-for-17 in his past six games and is hitting .275 since returning from a 50-game suspension for violating the Major League Baseball drug policy. He was hitting .348 when he was suspended. "It's big not only for the fact that we got the win, but we never want to see anybody celebrate on your field," said Pirates starter Jeff Karstens. "For us to come out and play the way we did, especially after they made some comments in L.A. about playing us, we felt like we had something to come out here and prove."

Randy Wolf, who is 7-1 lifetime against the Pirates, gets the calll tonight although pitching was not the problem in the first game of the series. The Dodgers are 21-11 in his 32 starts and he's unbeaten in his past eight starts, during which he's 6-0 with a 2.41 ERA while limiting opposing hitters to a .177 average.

The Dodgers will face a legitimate starter in LHP Paul Maholm (8-9, 4.46 ERA). He is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in five career starts against the Dodgers.

 Score by Innings
Los Angeles	010 000 000-1
Pittsburgh	102 000 00x-3

 Dodgers	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  0  1  0  .268
Ethier rf	4  0  0  0  .277
Ramirez lf	4  0  0  0  .295
Kemp cf        	4  0  1  0  .306
Loney 1b	4  0  0  0  .284
DeWitt 3b	4  1  2  0  .196
Hudson 2b	3  0  1  1  .281
Ausmus c	3  0  2  0  .301
Garland p	1  0  0  0  .087
 Mientkiewicz ph 1  0  0  0  .250
 McDonald p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Elbert p	0  0  0  0  .200
 Belisario p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Totals	32  1  7  1 
 Pittsburgh	31  3  7  3

  Error- DeWitt (1), Loney (7).
2B- DeWitt 2 (3), Hudson (34),
RBI- Hudson (61). LOB- Los Angeles 5, 
Pittsburgh 10. CS- Kemp (8). PO- Kemp.
 Dodgers	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Garland (11-12)	6.0  6  3-0  1  6  3.90
McDonald	1.1  1  0-0  2  2  3.90
Elbert	        0.1  0  0-0  0  0  5.19
Belisario	0.1  0  0-0  0  0  2.13
 HBP- by mcDonald, Garland. 
T- 2:55. Att- 19,452.
Dodger History 101
The final game in Pittsburgh was played on the anniversary of the last game in Ebbets Field, a 2-0 win over the Pirates. You might win a drink at your favorite orange juice stand by naming the Brooklyn pitcher who worked a complete game (Danny McDevitt) and the players who knocked in the two runs (outfielder Elmer Valo, and Gil Hodges, who started at third base).

Jim Gilliam played second, Gino Cimoli center field, Valo right field, Hodges, Sandy Amoros in left, Jim Gentile at first, Roy Campanella behind the plate and Don Zimmer at short. PeeWee Reese took over at third base later in the game, Hodges moved to first and Joe Pignatano took over for Campanella.

The game drew 6,702 teary fans and gave the Dodgers 1,028,258 in total attendance, fifth in the National League.

Now that batch of information could earn you a sugar donut to go with the OJ.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Reliever Guillermo Mota has worked his most innings since 2005 with Florida (67 innings). Also, with one more appearance, it'll be his most since 2004 with the Dodgers and Marlins (a combined 78). ... The 752 runs scored by the Dodgers rank ninth on the all-time Los Angeles list. ...In the spirit of the G-20 Summit, the Dodgers' current roster represents eight different countries (Canada, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Taiwan, the United States, and Venezuela). Prior to tonight's game, Dodger pitcher Hiroki Kuroda met with newly-elected Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who is in town for the summit. He wore a Pirate jersey while throwing out the first ball. ...Joe Torre, who will reach the postseason for a Major League record-tying 14th straight time to tie with Bobby Cox who guided the Braves to the postseason 14 consecutive years from 1991-2005 has been named by The Sporting News as Manager of the Decade.  

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