Danys Baez hasn't been scored on in ninth innings. Shouldn't that be enough for the Dodger closer?
Not when he is asked to be his own setup man.
With no game today, Manager Grady Little had Baez begin the eighth inning protecting a two-run lead. The strategy backfired when Baez made an error, gave up three hits and the Chicago Cubs rallied to win, 5-4, Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.
All the damage came with two out. Neifi Perez singled, then Baez couldn't find the handle on a grounder by Jacque Jones. Michael Barrett singled to drive in Perez and an errant throw home by left fielder Jason Repko allowed Jones and Barrett to move up a base.
Ronny Cedeno hit a line drive to right field that Jose Cruz Jr. nearly caught with a headlong dive. But in this game, almost wasn't enough for the Dodgers and both runners scored as Cruz trapped the ball.
"Just crazy things," Baez said. "Broken bats, bloopers, and that groundball had crazy spin."
It marked the first time Baez had pitched any inning besides the ninth as a Dodger and the first time he was scored upon. He had three saves in six appearances and few fans were missing injured closer Eric Gagne.
However, Little went to Baez early because setup man Takashi Saito pitched two innings Tuesday night and the manager doesn't have tremendous confidence in anyone else in the thin bullpen.
The Cub rally spoiled another strong performance by starter Brad Penny, who continued his April excellence by striking out seven and giving up two runs in six innings. Penny is 13-5 in 197 innings in April and has a 1.88 earned-run average in 24 innings this season.
Run-scoring singles by Sandy Alomar Jr. and pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee in the sixth inning enabled the Dodgers to break a 2-2 tie, and reliever Hong-Chih Kuo got through the seventh.
A victory that would have given the Dodgers two out of three against the Cubs and consecutive wins for only the second time this season was in reach. But because of the breach by the back of the bullpen, the Dodger record fell to 7-9.
"I don't like to attribute stuff to luck, but a lot of plays seemed just beyond our reach," Little said.
The last chance came in the ninth when Kenny Lofton singled with one out. But instead of J.D. Drew coming up, it was Cruz batting in the No. 3 spot. Drew, whose run-scoring single produced a walk-off victory Tuesday, was taking a game off for the third time this season.
This business of resting Drew frequently hadn't hurt the Dodgers because his replacements had big games. Cody Ross filled in twice for Drew at Pittsburgh and went five for nine with eight runs batted in and two home runs.
Ross has been designated for assignment, however, so this time Repko got the start for Drew and hit a two-run home run in the second inning batting eighth in the lineup. However, giving Drew the day off three times in 16 games translates into 30 days off over 162 games.
Little has handled the injury-prone Drew carefully since spring training. He said that with the off day, giving Drew two days off in a row "will make him feel like a million dollars." Getting 130 to 135 games out of the Drew is good enough for Little.
"I don't want to wear him down," he said. "It's just a feel I have for the kid. We'll just go with it and see what happens."
Cruz singled in the seventh -- an inning marked by a collision between Dodger runner Rafael Furcal and first baseman Derrek Lee that resulted in Lee's leaving because of a hand injury -- but in the ninth Cruz struck out for the second out and Jeff Kent lined to short.
"If we continue to play baseball like we are, we're going to win a lot of games," Little said. "We feel good about the way we are playing."