Toughest Win is Always the Next One

One would think that the Dodgers have hit rock bottom after collecting only a first inning single in San Diego and dropping a 5-0 decision, leaving them three games with Colorado to earn the elusive single win that would give them the National League West title.

Dodgers fans may not have noticed, but both St. Louis and Philadelphia have had rough weeks as the season grinds into the final days. The Phillies are 5-5 over their last 10 games; both the Cardinals and Dodgers are 4-6, although all three teams have wrapped up slots in the post season. Colorado, on the other hand, has been 7-3 over the same period of time.

The Dodgers were done in by rookie left-hander Clayton Richards, who made his 12th start of the season a memorable one. He surrendered a first inning single to Matt Kemp and nothing more, finishing his seven innings having thrown 103 pitches. He struck out two and walked three, lowering his earned run average to 4.08.

Dodgers starter Jon Garland may have pitched his way off the playoff roster, allowing all five runs, four of them earned, and seven hits before leaving with one out in the fourth inning. Kevin Kouzmanoff's three-run homer in the third inning was the crushing blow.

"I was absolutely terrible," Garland said. "Make mistakes and any team can beat you. I fell behind a lot of guys, was forced to throw strikes and they're a good-hitting team. They proved that the last two days."

The Dodgers road trip to Washington, Pittsburgh and San Diego, against three teams that are a collective 98 games under .500, was a complete disaster. They finished 3-6, having lost the last four in succession while looking, unsuccessfully, for the elusive single win that would give them the division title.

They earned at east a wild card spot last Saturday with an 8-4 win over Pittsburgh and had a six-game lead with seven games remaining after that win. Los Angeles has dropped six of eight overall, all on the road to sub-.500 teams.

"There's really not a lot to be said," manager Joe Torre said. "It's an interesting situation because we haven't clinched the division but we're still going to the playoffs. We certainly don't want to finish the season on a bum note because momentum-wise it doesn't help you in the postseason."

The Rockies host the Brewers in an afternoon game today before finishing the season with three games against the Dodgers in Southern California. They need a three-game sweep to take the division championship.

Los Angeles' lead for the all-important home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs was cut to a half-game over Philadelphia, which beat Houston 10-3 to clinch the East title. The Dodgers have scored one run or less four times in their last six games.

So, in effect, nothing much went right on the final day of September.

Kouzmanoff's 18th homer in the third inning off Garland put the Padres ahead 4-0. They scored their fifth run in the next inning when Mark Loretta, playing third base for the injured Casey Blake, ran into Everth Cabrera and grabbed his leg as he attempted to get back to third base.

Loretta was charged with an error and Cabrera was awarded home on the obstruction call.

While the offensive funk cannot be laid at the feet of the Dodgers two biggest sluggers, Andre Ethier and Manny Mota have had a miserable time of it over the past week or so.

Ethier, who was 0-for-2, has had one hit in his last 29 at bats, dropping his average to .271. Ramirez struck twice and has had only 4 hits in his last 25 at-bats, one home run in his last 15 games and is hitting .257 in his last 59 games.

One bright spot was the work of Vicente Padilla who made his first relief appearance since 2003, pitching two scoreless innings and impressing the manager.

And rookie Scott Elbert pitched a shutout inning in relief to extend his scoreless streak to seven appearances and strengthen his bid to be a situational left-hander on the 25-man roster.

The Dodgers have today off and some will probably watch Colorado and Milwaukee, looking for the final piece of what is still a remarkable season.

 Score by innings
Los Angeles	000 000 000-0
San Diego	103 100 00x-5

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	3  0  0  0  .267
Hudson 2b	4  0  0  0  .285
Ramirez lf	2  0  0  0  .294
Kemp cf	        3  0  1  0  .301
Loney 1b	3  0  0  0  .283
Loretta 3b	3  0  0  0  .228
Ethier rf	2  0  0  0  .271
Martin c	3  0  0  0  .250
Garland p	1  0  0  0  .086
 Elbert p	0  0  0  0  .200
 Mota p	        0  0  0  0  .333
 Pierre ph	1  0  0  0  .305
 Padilla p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Thome ph	1  0  0  0  .200
 Weaver p	0  0  0  0  .231
--------------------------------------------	
 Totals	        27 0 1 0
 San Diego	32 5 9 4

 Error- Loretta (2). LOB- Los Angeles 5, San
Diego 9. DP- Furcal, Hudson and Loney; Martin
and Furcal.

 Los Angeles	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Garland (11-13)	3.1  7  5-4  1  4  4.01
Elbert	        1.0  0  0-0  2  1  4.66
Mota	        0.2  1  0-0  1  1  3.50
Padilla	        2.0  0  0-0  1  2  4.55
Weaver	        1.0  1  0-0  1  2  3.65
 PB- Martin (3). WP- Elbert. TD- 2:54.
Att- 25,469.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Randy Wolf will start the first game of the Colorado series and Torre said Clayton Kershaw will start Saturday. ...Hiroki Kuroda will miss his final start after suffering a stiff neck. ...Casey Blake missed is eighth straight game with a sore hamstring and Ron Belliard his second with a groin injury.

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