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They're wrestling with inability to clinch the West

October 01, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

FROM SAN DIEGO — Not that the Dodgers aren't starting to get a wee bit desperate, but confronted with another clinch situation Wednesday night, they changed sports.

Baseball wasn't working, so they tried wrestling.

Failing to show any fight at the plate or on the mound, they did so in the dirt, and did it work?

Hulk no.

They were left with a dusty Mark Loretta, a disgusting line score, and once again, that black magic number "one" that has been haunting for nearly a week.

One more win or Colorado Rockies loss from clinching a National League West title.

One step from losing their minds.

And, now, one hit against Clayton Richard, Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson?

For the fourth consecutive game, the Dodgers couldn't close a deal that is vital to their postseason chances, losing, 5-0, to San Diego on a one-hitter by three no-names.

"I sense they've been anxious, trying to get this thing over with," Manager Joe Torre said afterward. "Making the playoffs is not enough, we have a good thing going."

A good thing that is painfully becoming a weird thing.

As Torre reminded, the Dodgers are already bound for the postseason, having clinched a wild-card berth last weekend. But they haven't won a game since, and this is an emotion-driven team whose psyche would be buffeted by a final weekend fall from first place.

It's not at the panic phase yet. But after a fourth consecutive loss to two teams a combined 47 games under .500, the Dodgers are rounding third and heading for "Oh no!"

Colorado plays host to the Milwaukee Brewers today while the Dodgers rest. If the Rockies lose, the Dodgers can win the division while dallying over a late lunch.

If Colorado wins, it gets trickier, the Rockies coming to Dodger Stadium for a season-ending weekend series that the Dodgers did not want to matter.

If this thing still isn't decided after default staff ace Randy Wolf pitches Friday night, well, then it gets serious.

"We certainly don't want to finish the season on a bum note," Torre said. "The momentum you lose would not be good."

For now, while many of their heroes are foolishly treating these like practice games, Dodgers fans can celebrate the fact that at least one of them is willing to go to the mat.

That would be Loretta, in the fourth inning, after colliding with Everth Cabrera on a tag play at third base.

The throw from catcher Russell Martin bounced off Loretta's glove and Cabrera's body and squirted away, the two players falling along the third base line.

As Cabrera headed back to the bag, Loretta wrapped both of his legs around Cabrera's right leg in an apparent effort to slow him.

Cabrera lunged. Loretta tugged. The Petco Park crowd gasped.

It was a move that would have made Vince McMahon proud.

It was, however, a move that only made third base umpire Greg Gibson point to home.

Interference. Cabrera scored. The Padres led, 5-0, en route to a victory and two-game sweep of a team that led them in the standings by 20 games.

"What am I supposed to do?" Loretta appeared to ask Gibson.

The way Jon Garland pitched, you couldn't blame a third baseman for tackling.

Said Cabrera through an interpreter: "He grabbed me like he was going to hold me down."

Said Loretta: "I was certainly not trying to keep him from going back to the base. It was just one of those things that happened when we were lying on the ground."

Another Dodgers poor start also happened, this time Garland giving up four earned runs in less than four innings, probably pitching his way out of a postseason rotation that is getting shorter and shorter.

Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and pray for bullpen reign.

The rotation, the biggest postseason question mark, will be written in bold if the Dodgers hitters don't find themselves.

One Matt Kemp single in the first inning, then 28 consecutive batters who don't even hit the ball hard? Against a Padres team that hasn't been in the pennant race since, like, April?

Andre Ethier came into the game against left-hander Richard hitting .216 in September and .191 overall against left-handers, of which he will see plenty next month.

Ethier went hitless in two at-bats against the starter.

Martin came into the game hitting .215 in September, and went hitless in three at-bats, barely getting the ball out of the infield.

And don't forget Manny Ramirez, whose drug-free hole just keeps getting deeper and deeper, as he struck out wildly to strand one of the few Dodgers baserunners in the sixth, then wildly again in the ninth.

Mostly, it was a night when the Dodgers just couldn't get out of their own way, or out of the shadow of that glowing right-field scoreboard.

In the third inning, the scoreboard lit up with the news that the Rockies had taken an 8-4 lead over the Brewers.

Moments later, Hudson grounded into one of those double plays, and the Dodgers didn't get close again, and believe it, it's starting to bother them.

Champagne is champagne. But whether it's baseball or Moet, chilled and bubbly beats warm and flat.


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