Most players who slide or dive on the rubber-like surface ringing Dodger Stadium land with a sudden thud, the impact often resulting in some kind of knee-jarring, hamstring-straining or ankle-twisting injury.
But when Dodger catcher Paul Lo Duca sprinted toward the third-base dugout and made a spectacular sliding catch of Bill Mueller's seventh-inning popup Tuesday night, he slid right off the warning track, four big steps down to the floor of the Dodger dugout and landed on his feet, popping back onto the field with cat-like quickness.
"That's from my pop-and-lock days, when I used to break-dance on a cardboard box in the mall," Lo Duca said. "I've seen a lot of guys blow out on that rubber stuff. I was lucky because I slid. It was almost like being at Wet 'N Wild."
Adding to the degree of difficulty of Lo Duca's catch was the uncertainty of the landing. Dodger pitcher Andy Ashby was in the vicinity but didn't try to catch Lo Duca, which was fortunate. Lo Duca might have broken Ashby's leg had he hit him.
"With the momentum I had, I might have killed somebody in the dugout," Lo Duca said. "I was lucky. Any more momentum, I would have hit my head on the bench. Any less momentum, I would have hit the steps. It was fun, though."
It takes a certain type of mentality to make such a catch, a guy who "has no regard for his body," Manager Jim Tracy said. "He went into the dugout not knowing what the outcome would be. All he knew was it was a one-run game and he had to catch that ball."
Lo Duca said he was "a little sore" Wednesday but had no regrets. He simply knows no other way to play.
"I've always played sort of kamikaze," Lo Duca said. "I'll probably kill myself one of these days and learn my lesson. But it was probably one of the best plays I've ever made."
To pitch or not to pitch to Barry Bonds? The Dodgers pitched to him with runners on first and third in the second inning of Tuesday night's 6-4 loss to the Giants and got burned when Bonds hit a two-run double.
The Dodgers walked Bonds in the first and fourth innings, and both times, Benito Santiago followed with hits, an RBI single in the first and a double in the fourth.
"I don't want Bonds to beat us, but I don't look at him as the major reason we lost [Tuesday night]," Tracy said. "In order to manipulate Barry Bonds like you want, you have to have success against the rest of the lineup.
"Take Barry out of the equation, and you have a second baseman [Jeff Kent] with 35 homers, a third baseman [David Bell] with 20 homers, a shortstop [Rich Aurilia] with 13 homers, a right fielder [Reggie Sanders] with 19 homers and an All-Star catcher [Santiago]. Barry can be a one-man wrecking crew, but he's not a one-man team."
Santiago received a two-game suspension Wednesday for bumping umpire Mark Hirschbeck during an argument in the ninth inning of Sunday's game against San Diego.
Santiago appealed the suspension, which allowed him to play Wednesday, and he'll probably play in tonight's series finale against the Dodgers. But the commissioner's office is expected to rule within a day or two on the appeal, and if the suspension is upheld, Santiago will sit out two games this weekend in Milwaukee.
Left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii returned to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a season-ending fractured skull when he was hit by a Brian Hunter line drive Sept. 1.
"It was nice to see a smile on his face, especially after what we witnessed two Sundays ago," Tracy said. "It was very uplifting for all of us, a breath of fresh air."
(14-9, 3.07 ERA)
(11-15, 4.40 ERA)
Dodger Stadium, 7
TV--Fox Sports Net 2. Radio--KXTA (1150), KWKW (1330).
Update--Perez came out of Saturday's 16-3 win over Colorado after five innings and only 60 pitches because of a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, but the condition is not expected to affect the left-hander tonight. Hernandez has a 5-8 career record and 4.49 ERA against the Dodgers, but the right-hander gave up three runs on six hits in seven innings of a 6-5 win over the Dodgers on Sept. 9 and is 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA in three starts against them this season.