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Suddenly, the 'Pen Is Flightier

A day after dealing Mota, Dodgers pay a price as new setup man Dreifort allows decisive runs in eighth inning of a 3-2 loss to the Padres.

August 01, 2004|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Paul DePodesta rolled the dice, remaking the Dodgers before Saturday's non-waiver trading deadline despite their position atop the National League West.

The bold first-year general manager figured the group wasn't good enough to play deep into October, so he overhauled the roster and crossed his fingers.

Maybe his big gamble will pay off, but the maneuvering triggered a change that contributed to a 3-2 loss to San Diego on Saturday night.

The largest crowd in the first season of Petco Park, 43,726, watched the Padres rally from a 2-1 deficit in the eighth inning, scoring twice against Darren Dreifort in his first appearance as the primary setup man for closer Eric Gagne.

Promoted in the bullpen rotation because Guillermo Mota was traded Friday to Florida in a blockbuster deal, Dreifort struggled with his command, giving up three hits and walking two as the Padres tied the score on Mark Loretta's sharp single to center and took the lead on Phil Nevin's slow-rolling infield hit to third.

It was the Dodgers' first loss this season when leading after seven innings (45-1).

"It was a tough night for Dreif," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "He made a couple a good pitches, but that's what happens sometimes. We know Dreif can do the job, and hopefully, he'll bounce back from this one.

"We're going to miss Guillermo no matter what, he's one of the best [relievers] in the game, but that doesn't mean that Dreif cannot do the job. We believe in Dreif and that he can do the job, but it was just the first day."

The Padres then turned to their top reliever in the ninth to help them pull closer in the division standings.

Trevor Hoffman retired the side in order, striking out two, to nail down his 29th save and the win for Akinori Otsuka (6-2), who relieved starter Jake Peavy in the eighth and stranded two runners.

Dreifort's ineffective performance prevented Kazuhisa Ishii from earning his 12th victory on a night the often-struggling left-hander rebounded with one of his best outings of the season in 6 1/3 innings, and Giovanni Carrara made one pitch in the seventh to get an inning-ending double play after entering with one out and two on.

Ishii led off the third with his first career home run to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.

"Kazuhisa pitched a terrific game," Manager Jim Tracy said. "His command, as far as his ball-strike ratio, was as good as I've ever seen at any time he's been here. I know he's pitched some shutouts and done some of those things over the course of a couple of years. But his ball-strike ratio tonight, and the way that he was pounding the strike zone, was just terrific."

The second-place Padres (58-46) moved back to within 2 1/2 games of the Dodgers (60-43), who won the series opener in a 12-3 blowout.

The Dodgers finished with the majors' best record in July at 21-7, and DePodesta is hopeful he has rebuilt the team to produce in the playoffs, but Dreifort showed the process might not be smooth.

"Dreif is going to do a tremendous job in that role," Shawn Green said. "He's got great stuff and he's got the heart for it. Tonight was just one of those nights where they battled, and it happens."

Terrence Long, who entered as part of a double-switch in the eighth, singled to start the inning and advanced to second on Khalil Greene's sacrifice. Sean Burroughs walked as a pinch-hitter for Rich Aurilia, then Loretta singled to center to drive in Long, and Burroughs went to third on an error by center fielder Milton Bradley, who overran the ball.

"They did a good job," catcher David Ross said. "A broken-bat single, a guy bunts him over, we walk a guy and a base hit. Loretta is a good hitter."

Burroughs scored on Nevin's hit as Beltre couldn't come up with the ball. After Brian Giles struck out, Xavier Nady walked to load the bases. Dreifort ended the inning when pinch-hitter Ryan Klesko fouled out, but the damage was done.

"It's unfortunate," Ross said. "If it works out, there's a 99% chance we win. It would have been nice for it to work out for Dreif. It's part of the game, but it's just unfortunate it worked out that way tonight."

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