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BASEBALL'S STRETCH RUN

Loney Is a Mass Producer

He ties Dodgers record with nine RBIs in a 19-11 victory over the Rockies, but Penny's stiff back is a concern when he leaves after the first inning.

September 29, 2006|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — The word of the day for the Dodgers: ridiculous. They played an absolutely ridiculous game, in every sense of the word -- absurd, farcical, preposterous in the classical sense, amazing in the slang sense.

They blew a five-run lead, but they won by eight. They got 17 hits and eight walks, but they gave up 16 hits and 10 walks. They gave their first baseman the day off, and the rookie who replaced him drove in the most runs of any rookie in 31 years.

The star, certainly, was James Loney, who hit two home runs and drove in nine runs in Thursday's 19-11 rout of the Colorado Rockies. But the pivotal figure was Brad Penny, whose availability for the playoffs appears in jeopardy.

The Dodgers trail San Diego by a game in the National League West and lead the wild-card race by 1 1/2 games over Philadelphia, which was playing a rain-delayed game at Washington.

However the final weekend plays out, the Dodgers are praying they wrap up a playoff spot without a one-game tiebreaker Monday, so Penny can rest his stiff back and the Dodgers can avoid entrusting their playoff fate to whatever long reliever might be fresh enough to start that day.

Penny reported some tightness in his back while warming up Thursday, but Manager Grady Little agreed to let him start anyway.

"He wanted to give it a shot," Little said.

"I thought it might loosen up," Penny said.

After Kaz Matsui doubled to lead off the first inning, Penny stepped behind the mound and twisted from side to side, again trying to loosen his back. By the time the inning was done, so was Penny, after the Rockies batted around and scored three runs.

Penny said he felt some back stiffness in his last start as well, although he did not leave that game because of injury. He said he "probably" could pitch Monday if needed but admitted he was concerned about the injury.

"Any time something like that happens, there's got to be [some concern], a little bit," he said.

Although he has pitched poorly lately, with an earned-run average of 6.25 since the All-Star break and 6.83 this month, Little said Penny would be included in the Dodgers' playoff rotation, if he is sound.

If he is not, the starter in a tiebreaker Monday figures to be one of the five displaced starters the Dodgers used in relief Thursday. Chad Billingsley, most recently diverted to the bullpen, made his first major league relief appearance and gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings.

Mark Hendrickson got the victory, pitching two innings without giving up an earned run.

Former starters Aaron Sele, Brett Tomko and Eric Stults also pitched, on the longest of days for catcher Russell Martin.

"It was like there was a pitcher and nobody else out there," Martin said. "Bloop here, bloop there, hard-hit shot, then a dribbler. You'd think, when is this going to end?"

Loney took home the ball from his grand slam in the second inning. He also hit a two-run double, a two-run homer and a one-run single, and the nine runs batted in tied the franchise record set by Gil Hodges in 1950 at Ebbets Field.

"It was fun," Loney said. "I was just going up there with guys on base thinking, 'I've got to get it going.' "

The Dodgers have done just that, just at the right time. By sweeping the Rockies -- only their third road sweep this season -- the Dodgers have won six of seven games.

With three more victories this weekend in San Francisco, or maybe even one or two, the Dodgers can clinch a playoff spot in front of Barry Bonds and Co.

"It's Giants-Dodgers," said Tomko, who pitched for the Giants before signing with the Dodgers. "I'm sure there's nothing more they want to do than knock us out of the playoffs. And there's nothing more we want to do than clinch on their field."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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The 9ers

The record RBI performances of the Dodgers' all-time one-game leaders:

* Gil Hodges, Aug. 31, 1950, in a 19-3 victory over Boston at Ebbets Field (three two-run home runs and a three-run home run).

* James Loney, Sept. 28, 2006, in a 19-11 victory over Colorado at Coors Field (grand slam, two-run double, run-scoring single, two-run home run).

Sources: baseball.library.com; mlb.com

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NL playoff races

San Diego maintained a one-game lead over the Dodgers in the West and Houston closed to within half a game in the Central after St. Louis lost for the eighth time in nine games. The Padres close the season with three games at Arizona and the Dodgers plays at San Francisco for their last three.

*--* NL WEST W L PCT. GB San Diego 86 73 541 -- DODGERS 85 74 535 1

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*--* NL WILD CARD W L PCT. GB DODGERS 85 74 535 -- Philadelphia 83 76 522 2

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*--* NL CENTRAL W L PCT. GB St. Louis 81 77 513 -- Houston 81 78 509 1/2 Cincinnati 79 80 497 2 1/2

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