Seventh Inning Lead Disappears in Loss

The Dodgers outscored Cincinnati 28-25 in the just completed three-game series but left town for Washington having lost the series 2-1 after the Reds erased a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning and collected an 8-5 win in the rubber game, dropping L.A. under .500 (7-8) and into fourth place in the process.

One thing is clear in this almost-new season: the 2010 edition of the Dodgers can hit and score as well as any in the National League, but their struggle in the field and on the mound will have to change or they'll be watching the post season on their flat-screen TVs.

Last season, when they had the luxury of the best bullpen in baseball, a 5-4 lead in the seventh was cause to start counting their winnings.

That's not the case anymore and a glance at the earned run averages of the five pitchers that attempted to hold off a sub-par Cincinnati team looks like this: Padilla 7.06, Kuo 54.00, Belisario 10.80, Sherrill 10.13 and Troncoso 4.50.

After almost three full weeks, they have become the 1950 Boston Red Sox, boasting an all-star starting lineup and a pitching staff that resembles a 98-pound weakling. The basic tenant that has sustained the team since it moved to Los Angeles, solid pitching, is nowhere to be seen at the present time.

Padilla, making his fourth start of the season, could have easily had a no-hitter through the first four innings. He dropped a ball covering first base on the initial Reds batter and it was ruled a home-town hit. The second hitter bounced a ground ball well over Casey Blake's head at third and a sacrifice fly resulted in a run.

Padilla then retired 13 straight while Los Angeles took a 3-1 lead. But in the fourth he allowed two hits and threw a tapper back to the mound wide of the bag to load the bases. A two-out singled game the Reds another run.

The veteran right-hander had been tantalizing Cincinnati with a wide assortment of quality pitches but in the sixth, a double down the right field line opened the inning and one of his eephus balls, a very slow, arching pitch, was timed perfectly and deposited in the right field seats.

Again Los Angeles gained the lead only to see the Reds batter both Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Belisario for four runs and the game.

Workhorse reliever Jeff Weaver was placed on the disabled list before the game with an aching back and Manny Ramirez, who came into the game second in the National League with a .421 average, pulled up lame after a single in the sixth having aggravated his right calf again.

The Dodgers faced 22-year-old Mike Link, making his third Major League start after earning a spot on the Reds roster fresh out of Arizona State. He walked Matt Kemp and fellow Sun Devil Andre Ethier slugged his fifth home run of the season to give L.A. an early run.

The Reds cut the margin on the error-turned-hit, a fluke high bounce over Casey and Joey Votto's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning. Ramirez dashed into the left-field corner to make a sparkling play or the Reds would have made even more trouble.

Then the youngster showed his first two starts weren't flukes, retiring 11 of the next 12 Dodgers with only a second inning walk interrupting the streak.

Blake DeWitt singled off him in the fifth and with two out, Rafael Furcal collected his sixth RBI of the series with a singe to center.

Drew Stubbs broke an 0-for-20 drought with a single off Padilla and another single put runners on first and third. Then a sacrifice bunt saw Padilla's throw pull Blake off first base to load the bases and a two-out infield hit cut the Dodgers margin to 3-2.

Brandon Phillips doubled and Jay Bruce waited for Padilla's funky looper and whacked it deep into the Reds bullpen in right field for Cincinnati's first lead of the night.

In the top of the seventh, Russell Martin singled and pinch-hitter Garrett Anderson caught one of Link's fastballs and hit it half way up into the right field seats and once again the Dodgers were in front.

Kuo made his initial 2010 appearance throwing 94 mph effortlessly. A leadoff bunt by Chris Dickerson was converted into an out by DeWitt, who dashed in, barehanded the ball and flipped it to first to beat the runner by inches.

Kuo slipped going after the bunt and fell on his face. The Dodgers trainer came out but Kuo declared himself OK. But he Orlando Cabrera singled and left-handed batter Votto walked and Torre removed him in favor of Ronald Belisario, who had worked a perfect inning the night before.

Then came the first of two crucial defensive plays and the Dodgers messed both of them up.

Brandon Phillips lined a shot to DeWitt at second and his throw to first base for an inning-ending double play pulled James Loney off the bag.

Scott Rolan slugged a long fly to left-center and Kemp tracked it down but stopped short of the fence and couldn't make the catch as two runs scored. Belisario walked the next Reds batter intentionally but gave up successive RBI singles to Stubbs and Ran Hannigan to put the game out of reach.

Veteran pitchers Arthur Rhodes worked a scoreless eighth and Francisco Cordero allowed a one out walk and a single by Martin but pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard and Furcal went down in order.

The win went to Link and he became the first Cincinnati starter of the season to win a game.

The Dodgers finished with nine hits, including a pair of home runs, but allowed 13. Martin singled twice for L.A.

RHP Charlie Haeger (0-1, 7.20) will face RHP Craig Stammen (1-0, 8.16) tonight in Washington.

After the game, Torre said that Ramirez would "probably" miss the entire Washington series, if not more. When he was asked how his leg felt as he sat in front of his locker, Ramirez said nothing and quietly chewed on his corn on the cob.

Russ Ortiz Choses Free Agency
Russ Ortiz, designated for assignment last week, declined an invitation to pitch in Albuquerque and opted to become a free agent. The Dodgers purchased Ortiz's contract from Triple-A Albuquerque on April 5. He was 0-1 with a 10.29 ERA in six games. Ortiz is 113-89 with six teams in 12 seasons.

Weaver on the DL
The Dodgers placed right-hander Jeff Weaver on the disabled list with a strain in his lower back. Weaver faced one batter on Wednesday night and retired Jonny Gomes but was removed from the game after experinceing pain.

Weaver had appeared in nine of the Dodgers' first 14 games this season.

The 27-year-old Hong-Chih Kuo, who was 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 35 games for the Dodgers last seasonm was activated for the first time this season.

Dodger Blue Notes --Matt Kemp singled in the sixth inning and increased his hitting streak to 11 games. ...The Dodger scored in eight of nine innings Thursday night, only coming up empty in the fourth frame. According to Dave Smith of retrosheet.org, that ties a franchise record also established on May 5, 1976 at Wrigley Field; July 4, 1956 at the Polo Grounds and May 20, 1930 at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. A team has scored in all nine innings just three times in history, most recently in 1999 when the Rockies did it to the Cubs at Wrigley.  ...Assistant General Manager, Player Development De Jon Watson, turned 44.            

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