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Dodgers could just kick themselves after this loss

Blake and Kuo boot grounders in ninth, handing Giants another last-inning win, 5-4.

August 11, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- Looking ahead on their schedule, the Dodgers saw series at Dodger Stadium against the National League East-leading Philadelphia Phillies and the wild card-leading Milwaukee Brewers.

Looking out at the first base side of the infield, they watched the San Francisco Giants celebrate their second final-inning comeback victory in as many days, a paid crowd of 41,804 fans on its feet and cheering the hometown heroes.

The Dodgers lost two games in a three-game series at AT&T Park that they could have swept, the latest one a 5-4 defeat Sunday in which the Giants scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the ninth for a victory that improved their record to 16 games under .500.

"We're going to find out what we're made of," catcher Russell Martin said after a loss that dropped the Dodgers 1 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona in the NL West. "We lost a couple of games we should've won."

Manager Joe Torre said he was certain his team would recover from Sunday's setback, pointing to how the Dodgers rebounded from a 3-2, 10th-inning loss the previous night to score four runs off Giants starter Matt Cain and take a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning.

"We're just going to have to reach down and reach back, as we're playing two good teams coming in this week and it's another test for us," Torre said.

The reactions Sunday of third baseman Casey Blake and left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo were strikingly similar to that of Jonathan Broxton the previous night, when he blew a save opportunity for the first time as the Dodgers' new closer but said he would recover.

Blake had a chance to start a game-ending double play with the Dodgers still holding a one-run lead, but he fumbled a grounder by Jose Castillo and let the Giants load the bases. The error was Blake's first in 15 games as a Dodger.

"That's a routine double-play ball," Blake said. "I'm not going to make all the plays, but I have to make that play, plain and simple."

Kuo, who entered the game with one out in the eighth, also lamented a missed opportunity. With the score tied, 4-4, Kuo let a weakly hit comebacker by Eugenio Velez get through his legs, pushing across Aaron Rowand for the winning run.

"I should have made the out," said Kuo, who was not charged with an error on the play.

More certain than the Dodgers' psychological state at this point is the starting outfield alignment.

For the last two days, Torre started an outfield of Manny Ramirez in left, Matt Kemp in center and Andre Ethier in right. Torre said he saw nothing to convince him he had to make a change, meaning Juan Pierre and slumping Andruw Jones will remain on the bench.

Not until Sunday did Torre name Ethier a regular in the lineup, a job description he'd already given to Ramirez and Kemp. Ethier was two for four with a triple, two runs and a run batted in Sunday.

"He gives you a little more pop," Torre said. "We'll see that as long as he looks comfortable."

Getting Pierre or Jones into the lineup just to give them at-bats isn't a priority at this stage in the season, Torre said.

"We're looking to win every game," Torre said. "Right now, it's team first and individuals after that."

Ramirez and Kemp didn't slow down, either. Ramirez hit a double to the wall in left-center in the seventh inning, driving in Kemp and Ethier to put the Dodgers ahead, 4-3. Kemp was three for five with a triple, a double and two runs.

The game started on a frightening note for Ramirez, who was hit in the helmet in the first inning when he ducked into a 93-mph fastball by Cain that was headed for his ribs.

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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