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Dodgers' Chances Head South

San Diego deals another blow to its regional rival as an injured Perez lasts only one inning in a 9-5 loss that leaves L.A. 31/2 games behind Florida.

September 23, 2003|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Odalis Perez started Monday night despite his fingernail problem because that's what the Dodgers wanted, and the results were what he had feared in a 9-5 loss to San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium.

The embattled left-hander lasted only one inning after developing a blood blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, and the Padres delivered another late blow to their Southland rivals' National League wild-card hopes before 15,429.

"I couldn't hold the ball," said Perez (12-12), who has losses in his last two starts. "What else can I say? That's what happened."

Phil Nevin's three-run home run highlighted a four-run first for the NL West's last-place team, which delighted in providing another hurdle for the Dodgers in their pursuit of a playoff invitation.

With their fifth loss in seven games, the Dodgers (82-73) dropped back to 3 1/2 games behind Florida in the wild-card chase with only seven games remaining. And the Dodgers now technically trail four teams because Houston and the Chicago Cubs are tied for the NL Central lead at 84-72.

Perez reacted angrily to clubhouse and media criticism of his decision to skip last Wednesday's start because of the fingernail problem, saying that he would only have hurt the team if he couldn't perform at his best.

Point taken.

"That's what happens when people start judging you for things that you are not able to do," said Perez, who reluctantly took the mound after a bullpen session Saturday. "That's what happens when you try and the things don't go right."

A lot went right for the Padres (62-94), who had 16 hits. Starter Mike Bynum (1-3) worked five innings in his second-best outing of the season.

Although the rookie left-hander began the game with an 8.78 earned-run average, he cruised through four scoreless innings as the Padres opened a 7-0 lead. The Dodgers finally broke through in the fifth, rallying for three runs with two out, but the Padres had received more than they expected from Bynum.

Beginning the fifth Monday, Bynum had worked 8 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dodgers this season. The Dodgers had only three singles in 31 at-bats against him during that span.

On Monday, Paul Lo Duca had three hits and two runs batted in to pace an 11-hit Dodger attack. The Dodgers, however, quickly realized Perez wouldn't last long, and now they're almost out of time as well.

"Can we do this? I ... I really don't know what to say," center fielder Dave Roberts said. "The bottom line is that we're all going to keep coming in here and try to find a way to win games, but we can't do anything unless we first find a way to win a game."

The Padres opened the game with four consecutive hits -- including Nevin's 13th homer into the stands in left. With the crowd still celebrating, Dodger Manager Jim Tracy, pitching coach Jim Colborn and trainer Matt Wilson headed to the mound for a conference, focusing on Perez's finger.

Xavier Nady lined a singled to center on Perez's first pitch after the meeting, but Perez eventually worked out of the inning without further damage. Perez didn't have command of his pitches and it showed.

"He developed a blood blister," Tracy said, "and it was just going to keep getting worse."

The Dodgers were upset that Perez, with the team struggling to remain in the wild-card race, decided not to pitch a day before his last start.

Many players said Perez should have at least waited until last Wednesday to decide whether to pitch, saying he owed it to the team to try. Edwin Jackson pitched seven strong innings in a 2-0 loss to Arizona, and Perez didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

"Why are people upset at me when somebody else is not pitching for different [reasons]?" he said last week. "They blame me because we lost the game, 2-0.

"Why blame me? I wasn't on the field. The kid [Jackson] pitched good, but we just lost the game. That's not my fault."

The Dodgers have not been mathematically eliminated, and Tracy said that's enough incentive for them to keep fighting.

"We're coming back here tomorrow to win," he said. "We're still in it and still playing."

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