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SAN DIEGO 3, DODGERS 1

Dodgers let another day get away

They fail for the third straight game to clinch NL West title, losing in San Diego, where they will try again on Wednesday.

September 30, 2009|DYLAN HERNANDEZ | ON THE DODGERS

SAN DIEGO — There were no explanations from the Dodgers about what has happened to their team, only reminders that they had to win only one of their next four games -- or that the Colorado Rockies had to lose one of their next five.

"I think we can do it," Matt Kemp said, smirking as he started to make his way out of the clubhouse.

What else was there for the Dodgers to say after another lifeless performance, this one in a 3-1 loss to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night at Petco Park?

For the third consecutive day, the Dodgers went into a game with their magic number to clinch the National League West title at one.

For the third consecutive night, they went back to their hotel rooms with the Rockies still in contention.

"The champagne will be colder tomorrow," said Manny Ramirez, who struck out twice and grounded into a double play in four hitless at-bats.

Even Joe Torre, who was admittedly distraught when the Dodgers blew a ninth-inning lead and a chance to win the division crown Sunday in Pittsburgh, had to let out his inner Manny and laugh at how sloth-like his team appeared.

"If it's worthwhile, it's worth the wait," this carefree version of the manager said.

Facing a pitcher, Cesar Ramos, who was making his first major league start, the Dodgers finished the game with four hits and fell to 3-5 on this three-city trip against teams that are a combined 99 games under .500.

No wonder they were so invested in the out-of-town scoreboard.

Kemp admitted that the Dodgers were monitoring the Rockies' game against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Rockies won, 7-5, in 11 innings.

"Casey Blake was like, 'Is that a seven with an F as in final?' " Kemp recalled with a laugh.

On a day when Chad Billingsley walked five batters in six innings and dropped his fifth consecutive decision, players and manager alike made his performance out to be a positive development.

Billingsley gave up two runs and only two hits, one of them a home run to Tony Gwynn Jr. in the third inning. He walked the bases loaded in the sixth and gave up a run-scoring single to Kevin Kouzmanoff that broke a 1-1 tie.

Torre said three of Billingsley's walks shouldn't count because they were to Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres' primary power threat.

"You want to make sure he's not the one to do the damage," Torre said.

Billingsley said he was pleased with the way he pitched, noting that he also thought he pitched well in Washington five days earlier when he gave up three runs in six innings.

"That's big for me," Billingsley said.

Billingsley is in line to pitch the Dodgers' season finale against the Rockies on Sunday, but Torre said he hadn't set the rotation beyond Friday.

That's the day Randy Wolf will start the first game in the Colorado series, which would put him on schedule to start Game 1 of the National League division series on Oct. 7.

Torre said he didn't know who would pitch the final two games of the season, but hinted that Clayton Kershaw could pitch Saturday.

Even though the Dodgers are guaranteed at least the NL wild card, Torre said he didn't intend to rest his starters down the final stretch.

"You want home-field advantage," Torre said, adding that the players he would consider resting are the same ones who are recovering from injuries.

Blake has missed the last six games because of a tight left hamstring and Ronnie Belliard the last two because of a strained groin. Ramirez sat out the two previous games.

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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