Good, if not great, pitching helped give the Dodgers nine consecutive wins, their best streak in four years.
And bad, if not horrible, pitching took that streak away Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium before 40,138 as the Dodgers fell to the San Diego Padres, 10-5, keeping them from tying the Padres for first place in the National League West.
It seemed a matter of time, though, before the Dodgers' well-documented pitching troubles would reemerge after a nine-game hibernation made some forget that such troubles existed.
But against the Padres, whom the Dodgers swept in a three-game series at Petco Park just three days prior, a pair of Ramons dug the Dodgers a hole from which they couldn't climb.
To his credit, Manny Ramirez brought a ladder. The outfielder was scratched from the lineup before the game after injuring his left foot during warmups but came in to pinch-hit in the fifth inning with two on, two outs, and the Dodgers trailing, 8-4.
The crowd chanted his name as he approached the plate, but once there, he struck out on a 93-mph fastball from Jon Garland. Heroic rescue over.
Ramirez's bat was sorely needed for retaliatory runs, though, since outfielder Andre Ethier and his major league-leading .392 batting average were on the disabled list with an injured right pinkie.
That, and because the Dodgers were facing a Padres pitching staff that entered Wednesday leading the National League in earned-run average (2.69).
Yet had the Dodgers pitching staff been as consistent as it was during the nine-game winning streak — posting a 1.89 ERA, limited opposing batters to a .183 average — runs wouldn't have been crucial.
It became that way after Ramon Ortiz proved the Dodgers' pitching brilliance wouldn't last. He was considered the weak link in the starting rotation, even though his placement there was more out of necessity than need.
On Wednesday, he was, indeed, weak.
Ortiz, who made his second start of the season after his first in nearly three seasons came Friday against San Diego, gave up five runs and six hits in 3 1/3 innings. He was battered in the third when, with the bases loaded and no outs, Ortiz gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, who tied the score, 3-3.
He was pulled in the next inning after giving up a run that gave the Padres the lead. Right-handed reliever Ramon Troncoso, who was making his third appearance in three days, took over.
But perhaps worn, Troncoso gave up back-to-back home runs to right center by Gonzalez (a three-run shot) and Chase Headley (a solo shot) in the fourth inning, giving San Diego an 8-3 lead.
He was pulled for Jeff Weaver after failing to get an out
With the loss, the Dodgers fell to two games behind San Diego for first place in the NL West, a considerable feat considering that 11 days ago the Dodgers sat in last place. The two will play Thursday with the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (3-2, 3.55 ERA) scheduled to face the Padres' Kevin Correia (4-3, 4.35).
It's the same pitching matchup as the one Saturday in San Diego, when Kershaw gave up two hits and one run in seven innings as the Dodgers won, 4-1.
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