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Latest Dodger Defeat Has a New Twist to It

Wunsch injures ankle warming up, leading to key homer by Helton in the Rockies' 8-5 win.

July 08, 2005|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — Ouch.

Pain has been the Dodgers' constant companion this season, felt from shoulders to biceps to elbows to wrists to fingers. From hips to hamstrings to knees.

Nothing, though, has hurt like this.

Manager Jim Tracy was at the mound in the seventh inning Thursday, motioning for Kelly Wunsch, who uncoiled his last warm-up pitch in the bullpen before coming in to face Todd Helton, a lefty-lefty match-up that had worked in the Dodgers' favor earlier this season.

But Wunsch landed wrong, twisting his right ankle, and was unable to pitch. That led to agony for the Dodgers.

Franquelis Osoria was summoned instead and Helton hit the rookie right-hander's second pitch for a three-run homer, the difference in the Rockies' 8-5 victory at Coors Field.

"That right there encapsulates the season," Wunsch said.

If that doesn't, maybe this does:

Osoria was ready to face right-handed Garrett Atkins, the batter after Helton, because experienced reliever Duaner Sanchez was unavailable. Why? He had experienced breathing difficulties and dizziness earlier in the day, probably because of the mile-high altitude.

Dodger spirits, meanwhile, plunged well below sea level.

Today, the Dodgers face Roger Clemens and the hot Houston Astros.

Perhaps Jeff Kent's tender hamstring will allow him to play, perhaps it won't.

"We'll show up and see what happens," said pitcher Derek Lowe, who went into the seventh inning but had nothing to show for it.

The Dodgers again trotted out a lineup as raw as sushi, and for the second consecutive day, jumped out to an early lead.

This time, though, they didn't add to it, squandering a 5-0 advantage by making defensive mistakes and giving up the long ball.

Lowe seemed a cinch to end his four-game losing streak, breezing through four scoreless innings. Trouble began in the fifth with one out and a runner on first when second baseman Antonio Perez's error on a double-play ball led to two runs.

And it could have been worse.

Earlier in the inning, his toss to shortstop Oscar Robles to get a force out at second base with a runner on first and none out was errant, but umpire Bruce Dreckman generously ruled that Robles had control of the ball.

After the error allowed one run to score and J.D. Closser's single brought home a second, Perez nearly dropped a feed from Robles on a ground ball for the second out.

Then Lowe was late covering on a ground ball to first baseman Olmedo Saenz, a recurring mistake by Dodger pitchers.

The third out was another adventure, with Perez fielding a ground ball and nearly throwing it over Saenz's head.

The miscues might prompt Tracy to reconsider what he'd said before the game about Perez appearing more comfortable at second than third base, where he has reluctantly played most of the season.

"There is a discernible difference in him ... when he is playing on the right side of the infield rather than the left side," Tracy said.

The Dodgers (40-45) started five rookies -- Oscar Robles, Jason Repko, Mike Edwards, Cody Ross and Mike Rose -- a second-year player in Perez and a third-year player in Jayson Werth.

They watched Helton and Brad Hawpe homer in the sixth against Lowe, who threw only sinkers and changeups because he didn't want to test his curveball in the thin air.

Then came the debacle in the seventh.

It is unclear how long Wunsch, who leads the team with 46 appearances, will be sidelined because of the sprained ankle.

All the Dodgers know is that they must face Clemens today with an inexperienced lineup.

"They've all watched him on TV," Tracy said. "It will be quite a challenge."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Mile high and deep

First baseman Todd Helton broke the Colorado Rockies' franchise home run record against the Dodgers on Thursday afternoon. Here are the Rockies' leaders:

* 1. Todd Helton...260

* 2. Larry Walker...258

* 3. Vinny Castilla...238

* 4. Dante Bichette...201

* 5. Andres Galarraga...172

* 6. Ellis Burks...115

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