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Saito can't stop Cubs

Closer gives up a run in the top of the ninth, then Dodgers leave the bases loaded in a 5-4 loss. Kent's two home runs are wasted.

June 06, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

Asked about the Takashi Saito bobblehead dolls that were handed out at Dodger Stadium, Dodgers Manager Joe Torre made a remark about how much they resembled his closer.

"Of course, I haven't seen him on the mound for so many days," Torre said, "so I don't know what he looks like anymore."

Torre saw Saito on the mound Thursday night, but not in the way he wanted.

Saito gave up a run in the ninth inning on a single to right by countryman Kosuke Fukudome, sending the Dodgers to a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs on a night when a pair of solo home runs by Jeff Kent helped them erase a four-run deficit.

The 38-year-old Saito emerged from the bullpen for the first time in seven days and for only the fourth time in the last 18 days.

"I feel bad about what happened because the bats came around today," Saito said. "I wanted to do well for the hitters."

Though James Loney led off the bottom of the ninth by stretching a single to left-center into a double, the Dodgers were unable to avoid their 11th loss in their last 14 games, this one ending with Matt Kemp striking out with the bases loaded and breaking the bat over his knee in frustration.

Wasted was a spirited comeback that marked the rare occurrence of the slumping lineup helping starter Chad Billingsley avoid a loss.

"They have a lot of fight," Torre said. "They've been frustrated, but we haven't stopped fighting, we haven't stopped playing."

Billingsley, the 23-year-old ace-in-the-making, gave up four runs in the first four innings, including solo home runs to Fukudome and Mark DeRosa.

"I was just leaving the balls up," Billingsley said. "You can't do that."

Billingsley, who was 4-2 with a 1.80 earned-run average over his last seven starts, pitched five innings, giving up seven hits and three walks. He struck out eight, two in each of the first four innings.

The Dodgers looked dead, especially in light of comments Torre made the previous day about how a 2-0 lead looked like a significantly greater obstacle for a team with as little firepower as this one.

Their futility reached a point where, when Chin-lung Hu's fifth-inning double drove in Blake DeWitt for their first run, the crowd roared as if the home team had scored a walk-off run. Some of the patrons stood to applaud.

Hu scored on a single to right by Mark Sweeney to get the Dodgers to within two runs, the score 4-2.

The two runs ended a streak of 23 consecutive innings in which the Dodgers had failed to score multiple runs. The Dodgers had failed to score multiple runs in eight of their previous 13 games, a stretch over which they hit a collective .231.

Kent's first home run, which came in the sixth, moved the Dodgers to within a run, 4-3.

Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, who beat Billingsley 10 days earlier at Wrigley Field, walked Russell Martin after serving up the home run to Kent and was pulled from the game.

Dempster was charged with three runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Kent took a pitch from Bob Howry over the left-field wall in the eighth to tie the score.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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