Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue

Category: James McDonald

James Loney, home-run machine, powers Dodgers past Pirates, 6-1

Dodgers-loney_600 The thrill was gone, but apparently not the will.

The Dodgers were officially eliminated from the postseason Saturday before ever stepping on the field, Atlanta’s 1-0 afternoon victory over the Mets ending all possibility of capturing a wild-card berth.

That’s two consecutive years without making the playoffs.

Still, the bankrupt team put it aside and went out and downed the Pirates, 6-1, behind a strong start by Ted Lilly and another home run by James Loney before an announced crowd of 32,514.

Lilly went seven innings, holding the Pirates to one run and four hits. He walked two and struck out seven.

After a series of difficult starts, Lilly (10-14) is finishing the season well. In his last 10 starts, he has a 2.67 earned-run average.

And that finish is nothing compared to that of Loney, who after a miserable second half last season and a poor first half in 2011 is on the roll of a lifetime.

Continue reading »

Dodgers' Web musings: Ramon Troncoso pitches his way back into bullpen picture

Ramon_300 Love is a many-splendored thing, unless Joe Torre was going all goo-goo eyed over you in the bullpen.

Sometimes, that qualified as tough love. If Torre loved you, he tended to use you. And sometimes, too much.

Troncoso had been an unexpected delight in 2009, appearing in 73 games and posting a 2.72 ERA and even picking up six saves. The Dodgers assumed it would be more of the same last year, and things began well enough.

But Troncoso appeared in 14 of their first 20 games last April and began to slip. By the end of June his ERA was up to 5.45 and his confidence was shaken. He looked worn out. He was soon sent back to the minors, where he would spend the bulk of the next two months.

Troncoso entered this spring almost as an afterthought. The bullpen looked packed, with maybe one opening that hardly appeared earmarked for the 28-year-old.

But an injury to Vicente Padilla and Ronald Belisario’s latest AWOL routine have presented an opportunity, and Troncoso appears set on making the most of it.

Manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson that last season Troncoso became reluctant to use the sinker that had been so effective for him in the past.

This spring he has retired 10 of his 11 batters and at least in the early going has been impressive. His ability to pitch more than one inning could help him jump back into the Dodgers’ bullpen picture.

"His role would be to kind of fit in the middle [ahead of] whoever you have setting up," Mattingly told Jackson. "He is a guy who is going to have to pitch multiple innings."

Also on the Web:

-- The Daily News’ Tom Hoffarth takes a great look at ex-Dodger Greg Goosen, whose death last week was almost typically overshadowed by that of Duke Snider’s passing.

-- In the New York Times, ex-Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca gives a moving first-person account of Snider and how he stood up for Jackie Robinson.

-- The Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin writes that commissioner Bud Selig is again speaking volumes while refusing to comment on Frank McCourt’s ownership difficulties while aiding troubled Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

-- Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan profiles ace-in-the-making Clayton Kershaw, also taking another look at his off-season trip to Africa.

-- More from Passan: He writes that Dodgers reliever Travis Schlichting has the greatest mullet in the history of mankind, or at least baseball.

-- The Post-Gazette’s Ron Musselman writes that ex-Dodger James McDonald is thrilled to have a set role in the Pirates' rotation, where he is tentatively scheduled in the No. 3 spot.

-- TrueBlueLA’s Phil Gurnee profiles left-hander Scott Elbert, off to a slow start in Arizona.

-- More from LAT's Shaikin: Will the Dodgers let Matt Kemp run free on the bases this season, even if he’s the cleanup hitter?

-- Orange County Register travel editor Gary Warner takes a look a the Dodgers’ semi-new home in Phoenix and likes it.

-- The N.Y. Times' Ben Shpigel writes that catcher Russell Martin and right-hander Phil Hughes are bonding over their love of hockey.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Ramon Troncoso in 2010. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA

The Dodgers' farm system is in the wrong kind of rut

The problem isn’t how you’re going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree if you can’t even get them to the City of Light.

For every player in the Dodgers’ farm system, there is a singular goal -- to make it to the big-league club. Except that in recent years, a once-roaring pipeline has dried up to a veritable trickle.

Since the almost freakish 2006 season when the system produced the current core of the team -- Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Hong-Chih Kuo and James Loney, plus Russell Martin -- the Dodgers have produced exactly one rookie of significance: Clayton Kershaw in 2008.

Last season, John Ely (who came in an off-season trade) and Carlos Monasterios (a Rule 5 draft pick), had their moments, though neither is expected to make the club this season. The best rookie was reliever Kenley Jansen, who a year earlier was a catcher. Ronald Belisario, who had been an off-season free-agent signing, had an unexpectedly successful rookie season in 2009 but faltered badly last year.

And the Dodgers may well break camp this spring without a single rookie on their roster.

The farm system currently just isn’t producing. In the past four seasons, Kershaw is its only impact product.

The only Dodger to make MLB.com’s new list of Top 50 prospects for 2011 is reed-thin shortstop Dee Gordon, and he comes in at No. 44.

ESPN’s Keith Law’s annual organizational rankings (Insider status required) has the Dodgers listed at an anemic No. 22. The prospects trying to knock down the door just aren’t there.

I don’t care what criteria a bubblegum company uses to determine that the Dodgers were the organization of the year last season, the purpose of the farm system is to develop major leaguers. Not win minor league titles. And for the past four years, it just hasn’t produced.

Lists of prospects are interesting and fun but should not be taken too seriously. One year James McDonald and Andrew Lambo are the rising stars, the next the Dodgers are down on them.

And, of course, they tend to vary because it’s the rare player who can excel so excitingly at Double-A that he becomes a can’t-miss major leaguer. Like most things in sports, they’re educated guesses. Which is why Baseball America’s prospects list for 2011 is going to look similar, but not the same as FanGraphs.

And why one season Jerry Sands and Rubby De La Rosa are nowhere to be found on the lists last year, and then after strong lower-level seasons, jump to near the top.

Plenty of arms who appeared exciting a year ago at Double-A are now trying to reestablish credentials. Some never will. This is not an exact science but one the Dodgers traditionally excelled at.

From 1992 to 1996, the Dodgers produced five consecutive National League rookies of the year. The Dodgers have won twice as many ROY awards (16) as any other team.

But whether it is because of bad luck, poor draft picks, less emphasis on the Dominican Republic or failed development, for the past four years the system has failed to meet its mandate -- to develop major leaguers.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers Web musings: Is James Loney headed for the trade market?


That prospect has been advanced from more than one circle, though it normally doesn’t come attached with who the Dodgers’ new first baseman would be.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, one of baseball most respected national writers, is the latest to suggest that James Loney’s future may entail the trade market.

Most of the offseason attention understandably goes to the big names and top free agents. But Verducci put together a seven-man list of players on the secondary market who could have the biggest impact on the 2011 season, and there was Loney.

And Foxsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi identified Loney as "the position player the Dodgers are most willing to move, according to major-league sources."

Loney is a moderate lightning rod among team followers. Praised by some for his smooth defensive play and consistent RBIs, and loathed by others who constantly lament his lack of power and signs of improvement.

He is arbitration eligible this offseason, and with another year of arbitration still ahead. Verducci estimates that Loney could command about $6 million in arbitration this year.

So the thinking is, Loney is just pricey enough that the Dodgers would consider moving him if it means solving a problem elsewhere.

Sure, but are you really going to be able to deal Loney for a power bat? If it’s just a matter of producing runs, he’s averaged 90 RBI the last three seasons.

Verducci argues Loney is a chance for another team to buy low on a player who is still only 26:

Here's what [sic] so encouraging about the thought of getting Loney out of Dodger Stadium and experiencing a breakout season: He hit 41 doubles last year and has been a much better hitter in his career on the road (.307 with a .854 OPS) than at home (.268 with a .711 OPS). He should interest the Rays, Jays, Nationals and Diamondbacks.

Even if the market is there, trading him naturally leaves another position hole for the Dodgers to fill.

Also on the Web:

-- The Times' Bill Shaikin spoke to Manny Ramirez agent Scott Boras, and the former Dodgers outfielder is finding slim pickings in the free-agent market.

-- Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick spoke to Rick Rhoden, the ex-Dodgers pitcher who became a professional golfer and would now like to become a minor-league pitching coach.

Rhoden spent the last month at the Dodgers’ Arizona instructional league in something of a trial coaching run. The Dodgers have yet to announce their coaching staffs at the major- or minor-league level.

-- MikeSciosciasTragicIllness.com’s Mike Petriello thinks the Braves got second baseman Dan Uggla cheap and wonders where the Dodgers where in these trade talks.

-- ESPN/LA.com’s Jon Weisman takes a look at the impact of deferred contracts in the wake of signing Hiroki Kuroda.

-- TrueBlueLA.com’s Eric Stephen doesn’t seem all that impressed that after the Dodgers sent James McDonald (and Andrew Lambo) to the Pirates for Octavio Dotel, they flipped Dotel to the Rockies six weeks later for a player to be named.

He was named Monday, and it’s Anthony Jackson, a 26-year-old outfielder who’s never played above Class AA.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Octavio Dotel, it was nice knowing you: Dodgers trade him across the hall to Rockies

Dotel_300 So what do you think about that Octavio Dotel trade now?

The Dodgers traded right-hander James McDonald and double-A outfielder Andre Lambo to the Pirates for Dotel at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

They kept him for six weeks and then shipped him to the Colorado Rockies before Saturday’s game for a player to be named. Probably not one the quality of McDonald.

Octavio Dotel, we barely knew ye.

Dotel just had to walk down the hall at Dodger Stadium and enter the visitors’ clubhouse, where the Rockies were preparing to play the Dodgers.

"Shortest trip to Colorado he’ll ever make," said Dodgers lameduck Manager Joe Torre.

Dotel had been the closer for the Pirates this season, saving 21 of 26 games. With the Dodgers, he was so-so and never really locked into a specific role.

Dotel, 36, was a short-term answer from the beginning with L.A. He ultimately appeared in 19 games for the Dodgers, going 1-1 with one save and a 3.38  earned-run average.

McDonald, 25, was immediately put into the rotation for the Pirates, where he’s gone 3-4 with a 3.49 ERA in eight starts.

The Dodgers’ two-time minor league player of the year started a total of five games for the Dodgers the last two seasons. He entered last season as their fifth starter, going 1-1 with an 8.78 ERA before coming out of the bullpen for the rest of the season.

Lambo finished this season with the Pirates’ double-A Altoona team, hitting .275 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 102 at-bats.

Oh, there was one other thing the Dodgers got from Pittsburgh in the deal: $500,000.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Reliever Octavio Dotel works against the Washington Nationals last month. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA

Dodgers Web musings: The all-Frank and Jamie McCourt edition!


OK, first we begin by trying to avoid complete nausea. It will be a challenge.

In The Times’ Bill Shaikin’s latest insightful piece on the financial tragedy emerging from the divorce proceedings of Frank and Jamie McCourt, he has a doozy of a quote to wrap up his story.

It comes from Sal Galatioto, whose New York investment firm advises buyers and sellers of sports franchises. He argues that if the McCourts are forced to sell the franchise, it would hardly be a fire sale.

First he said: "There would be plenty of buyers. The team is profitable. It's Los Angeles."

Then the story ends with this maddening comment.

"The Dodgers would not sell at a distressed price," Galatioto said. "There would be very strong bids if the team goes on the market.

"It's a tribute to the McCourts and the job they have done with the team."

(Please feel free to take this moment to scream high into the heavens. Now repeat.)

Nothing like knowing short-sighted business management hasn’t gone out of vogue in New York with the banking scandal.

Yes, the franchise has made money the past few years. But at what long-term cost?

The McCourts cut payroll and raised prices on tickets, parking and concessions. They pulled in more money and spent less of it on the team.

Now they have a half-empty stadium and a mediocre ballclub. Wonder how much they’re going to make this year. Their quick financial fix could hurt the club for years. Yeah, what a tribute.

Otherwise, Shaikin has baseball so upset about what’s coming out of the court case -- which resumes Monday -- that commissioner Bud Selig is considering intervening on behalf of the baseball.

Isn’t that interesting?

Not that he shouldn’t be highly concerned, but isn’t this the guy who pushed for McCourt ownership back in 2004 despite the little fact that … they had almost no money.

Ross Newhan, The Times’ national baseball columnist in 2004, points out in his blog that he and then-Times beat writer Jason Reid repeatedly warned that the McCourts were under-funded and that their financial plan called for an annual reduction of player payroll.

"I do not bring it up to pat Reid and myself on the back but to ponder again how MLB allowed the McCourts to make a shoestring purchase of a flagship franchise and file a business plan that seemed certain to undercut the club's ability to provide 3-million-plus fans a year with the best players money can buy.’’

And now Selig is -- what? -- shocked and concerned that one of baseball’s premier franchises is being dragged through the mud?

Paul Oberjuerge at his blog said that even those who gave the McCourts credit for reaching the National League Championship Series the past two years had to know the jig was up once the divorce was announced.

He saw only two possible outcomes:

"1. It would be very bad for the club.

"2. It would be disastrous for the club.’’

Which remains a toss-up.

Two other recent stories on the McCourts’ situation mentioned earlier here bear repeating:

-- Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins rips into the owners for crippling one of sports' great franchises and gives a terrific overview of the demise.

-- ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant spares no criticism of the crumbling of the franchise under the McCourts.

"The collapse is an extraordinary example of greed and unaccountability gone wild in a decade already full of them."

And, OK, I lied. It’s not an exclusive McCourt edition of Web musings.

-- BenMaller.com has found Matt Kemp modeling  for Crooks & Castles, a street-wear clothing company that is something about everyone having to be a bit of a crook before owning a castle.

-- ESPN/LA.com’s Jon Weisman takes a look at the eight starts James McDonald has made for the Pirates and thinks the Dodgers gave up on their two-time minor-league pitcher of the year too soon.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers at the deadline: No mega-deal comes forth, but they're left improved [Updated]

Well, that’s over with. Feel better? No? Aren’t ready to order those playoff tickets just yet?

The non-waiver trade deadline ticked off Saturday, leaving the Dodgers with a new starter in their rotation, a new reliever, a new second baseman and extra outfielder -- and the same left-fielder, at least if he ever actually gets healthy. Who knew getting in touch with your female side was so time-consuming these days?

No blockbuster deal suddenly reared its head. No fresh star power, nothing to really get the juices flowing for the Dodgers’ faithful.

So they move on without a Cliff Lee, Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt. Move on without the addition of a serious bat.

Is the result disappointing for a team in the second-biggest market in baseball? Absolutely. Is it surprising? Sorry, silly question.

We’ll leave ruminating over the size of the L.A. market versus the size of the Dodgers payroll for another day -- or several -- and instead focus on the immediate question:

Are the Dodgers a better team today than they were last week?

And -- deep breath here -- the answer is: yes.

Ted Lilly is not the legitimate No.1 starter the rotation craves, but even at 34, he is a positive addition. Granted, his 3-8 record is not impressive, nor was his last little visit to Dodger Stadium.

In his three starts since, however, he has a 1.80 ERA (four earned runs in 20 innings). And his record is somewhat deceptive, given that the Cubs provided him the second-lowest run support (3.77 per nine innings) in the majors, second only to Oswalt's (3.07).

So a rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla and Lilly is solid, one through five. That’s progress. The Dodgers will go out knowing they should have a chance to win every night.

[UPDATED:] Plus, the addition of the left-handed Lilly will enable to the Dodgers to again make Carlos Monasterios a reliever and unload one of those slugs dragging down the bullpen.

In a true deadline move, the Dodgers acquired reliever Octavio Dotel from the Pirates for James McDonald and minor-leaguer Andrew Lambo. This is another deal that makes it clear the Dodgers are focused on winning this season.

Dotel is 36, but had been closing for the Pirates (21 saves in 26 opportunities) and should be a good addition for this season. Lambo, 22, is an actual prospect and losing him could come back to haunt. But he’s twice been suspended for testing positive for a drug on the banned list. McDonald never delivered on his promise; perhaps he benefits from a fresh start.]

Scott Podsednik is a solid addition to the outfield and a serious step up from Xavier Paul, Garret Anderson, and even Reed Johnson.

Essentially swapping Blake DeWitt for Ryan Theriot straight up is not exactly an exciting upgrade. Many of their numbers are fairly similar, and Theriot is six years older than DeWitt. Still, Theriot (who does have a scary .320 on-base percentage) is arbitration eligible next season, so this could be the Dodgers’ second baseman for a while.

And then there is the deal that wasn’t made, unloading Manny Ramirez to the White Sox. Their offer: We’ll pay $1 million on his remaining contract.

The Dodgers didn’t bite, and for very good reason. Whatever you may think of Ramirez, he is still a productive hitter when healthy. When healthy, alas, being a key phrase here.

If the Dodgers had dumped Ramirez, they would have essentially said they were giving up on the 2010 season. Which would go against every other move they made, and be the kind of move that would never fly in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers are struggling to score and need to add offense, not subtract it. If Ramirez comes back in a week or two, he’s certainly capable of giving the offense a spark.

So, sure, it’s disappointing the Dodgers couldn’t pull the trigger on a significant deal to get the masses all excited. Still, in the short term, the moves Ned Colletti made have left the Dodgers an improved team.

[UPDATED: Said Colletti: "I don’t know if it was a great trade deadline or not. We’ll find out. I know that we set out to add a starter and add a bullpen piece, and see if we can add some more speed and versatility to the lineup, and we did that. How it all turns out, we’ll see."]

And hey, next year Carl Crawford is a free agent …

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers' offense officially missing, collects only three hits as Padres win battle of bullpens, 3-2

It sounded like advantage Padres, a battle of bullpens, and it played out that way.

Which meant more bad news for George Sherrill and more for the Dodgers, the Padres pulling out a 3-2 victory Thursday when .230-hitting Oscar Salazar bounced a game-winning single up the middle in the ninth inning.

So a series that the Dodgers hoped would launch them back into the National League West race, instead pushed them just further back.

With the victory, the Padres took two in the three-game series and left the Dodgers seven games back in the National League West.

A Padres team with one of baseball’s least impressive lineups but its best bullpen raised its record to an N.L. best 60-40.

The bullpens had been matching zeros all afternoon when the beleaguered Sherrill came in to pitch the ninth.

Jerry Hairston Jr. immediately drilled a single off the arm of a diving Casey Blake at third. After a Tony Gwynn sacrifice bunt moved Hairston to second, the weak-hitting Salazar hit for the even weaker-hitting Everth Cabrera (.199).

Salazar, who’s bounced around the majors since 2002 but had only 60 career RBI, bounced his hit right up the middle to score Hairston with the winning run.

A Dodgers offense that is barely averaging two runs in its 14 games since the All-Star break had failed again. One day after managing only four hits, they came back Thursday with only three.

The Padres opened the scoring in the first inning off Vicente Padilla after putting runners on first and second on singles by Hairston and, despite that exaggerated defensive shift, Adrian Gonzalez.

Chase Headley’s one-out single scored Hairston.

James Loneyimmediately got the run back, however, when he led off the second against Matt Latos with his eighth home run of the year.

It remained a cozy 1-1 affair until Padilla walked Headley to lead off the fourth and Yorvit Torrealba doubled him home.

Padilla, who was 2-1 with a 0.98 ERA in four July starts, pitched out of further trouble but had extended himself.

He had already thrown 90 pitches after the four innings, so when the Dodgers put two on with walks and one out against Latos in the fifth, Garret Anderson pinch hit for him.

Which turned out to be a good thing, the struggling Anderson slicing a run-scoring double to left to tie the game at 2-2.

And that’s how the game was left when both Padilla and Latos left the game.

Padilla allowed his two runs on four hits and two walks, with five strikeouts. Latos gave up his two runs on two hits and three walks in five innings, with seven strikeouts.

And then it fell to the bullpens.

For the Dodgers, James McDonald threw two scoreless innings, Kenley Jansen one (though he did allow his first hit) and Hong-Chih Kuo one (though he allowed his first hit to a left-handed batter, Gonzalez, in 37 at-bats) before it fell to Sherrill.

The Padres got scoreless frames from Joe Thatcher, Ryan Webb, Luke Gregerson and Heath Bell.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers beat Mets, 3-2, in 13 innings

Dodgers1_586

The Dodgers faced a disaster Saturday at Chavez Ravine, just what they needed.

His name was Mike Pelfrey, a pitcher for the New York Mets, or so the media guide stated. But in truth, Pelfrey hadn’t been much of a pitcher lately, statistics indicated. In fact, he had been historically awful.

Entering Saturday’s game, Pelfrey was the first National League pitcher since 1900 – that’s right, 1900 – to allow more than 50 baserunners (walks, hits, hit batsman) while recording fewer than 50 outs over a four-game span.

The slumping Dodgers, who were 3-7 in their previous 10 games, couldn’t have hoped/prayed for anything better. But they managed only two runs against Pelfrey, and the the L.A. bullpen (not surprisingly) blew that lead.

Then, each bullpen tussled it out into the 13th inning, when James Loney hit a walk-off home run against  Oliver Perez to give the Dodgers a 3-2 win before an announced crowd of 43,506 at Dodger Stadium.

The game started off well enough for the Dodgers. Mets shortstop Jose Reyes lost a Rafeal Furcal ground ball in the sun in the first inning. Then Pelfrey threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt, and Furcal advanced to third. He later scored on Xavier Paul's sacrifice fly, giving the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

The Dodgers added another run in the fourth inning when Blake DeWitt tripled and catcher Brad Ausmus, who was playing in his first game since April 8 after being out because of back surgery, singled him home.

Carlos Monasterios, the Dodgers’ No. 5 starter du jour, held up his end, throwing five innings of shutout ball, giving up six hits and one walk. But Dodgers Manager Joe Torresaid before the game that Monasterios, who was making his seventh start, would likely throw only 80 to 90 pitches.

And when Monasterios hit that 80-pitch mark, the Dodgers pulled him for reliever James McDonald, who started the sixth inning.  

Things started to unravel from there.

McDonald gave up an RBI single to Mets catcher Rod Barajas and got yanked for Jack Taschner, who lasted two batters, the second of whom singled to tie the score.

Travis Schlichting replaced Taschner and got an inning-ending double play. Then Schlichting was replaced by Kenley Jensen, the 22-year-old former catcher who had never pitched before last season and was called up from double-A Chattanooga on Friday.

Jensen pitched an impressive 1-2-3 seventh inning, then came All-Star Hong-Chih Kuo, who gave Torre a 1-2-3 eighth, even though it was the fourth time he had pitched in five days.

Closer Jonathan Broxton, who suffered from food poisoning earlier this week, pitched a hitless ninth and 10th inning, and Jeff Weaver didn't give up any hits either in the 11th or 12th.

The Dodgers offense, though, had struggled to that point, and failed to score in the 12th even after getting runners on first and third and no outs. But Loney's home run, which came on a 90-mph fastball with the count 1-0, made up for all that.

The Dodgers close out their four-game series with the Mets on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. Clayton Kershaw (9-5, 3.15 ERA) will face Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (6-4, 2.73 ERA).

-- Baxter Holmes

Photo: Matt Kemp grabs James Loney after the Dodgers first baseman hit a game-winning home run in the 13th inning Saturday and was engulfed by teammates. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images

Vicente Padilla gives Dodgers another strong start, but this time it's not enough as Mets win, 6-1

Dodgers1_300 This time, strong starting pitching wasn’t enough for the Dodgers.

Vicente Padilla (pictured at right) gave them a third consecutive outstanding start, but was outpitched by the Mets’ Johan Santana. All that before the Dodgers bullpen imploded.

So the Dodgers' mini-winning streak was snapped at two, the Mets rolling on to a 6-1 victory Friday that returned the Dodgers to six games behind the San Diego Padres in the National League West.

There was little more that Padilla could have done. Save for one pitch to Ike Davis, he was just as masterful as starters Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda had been before him.

Padilla went seven innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits. He struck out six and did not walk a batter. Fifty-five of his 77 pitchers were strikes. During one stretch, he retired 17 consecutive Mets.

Padilla (4-3) was simply continuing his recent string of strong outings. In his last six starts, he has a 1.30 earned-run average.

The Mets, however, got to him for an unearned run in the first.

Jose Reyes led off the game with a double. Luis Castillo was able to beat out a bunt for a single to put runners on the corners.

Padilla struck out Angel Pagan and David Wright, but on the latter Castillo took off for second. When catcher Russell Martin fired to second, Reyes broke for home.

Martin’s throw was on line and Pagan would have been out for an inning-ending double play … except Dodgers second baseman Blake DeWitt dropped the ball for an error.

There was nothing unearned about the Mets’ second run. Padilla tried to throw one of those slow, looping curveballs past Davis and the first baseman waited patiently and rocketed it into the left-field pavilion for his 14th home run.

With Mets outfielders making a series of outstanding catches, Santana had the game in control for New York.

Like Padilla, Santana (8-5) wasn’t messing around, consistently throwing strikes. He gave up one run on five hits in his seven innings. Of his 98 pitches, 74 were strikes.

The only run the Dodgers scratched together off Santana came in the fifth when Martin led off with a double, advanced to second on a DeWitt groundout and scored on Jamey Carroll’s flyout to shallow right.

After the starters called it a night with the Mets clinging to a 2-1 lead, New York broke the game open against the Dodgers' bullpen.

Manager Joe Torre utilized four different relievers, all of whom struggled. Jeff Weaver walked two and James McDonald allowed a sacrifice fly and an intentional walk.

New left-handed specialist Jack Taschner then looked a lot like the old left-handed specialist (George Sherrill), walking the left-handed Davis.

Travis Schlichting’s first pitch was then lined by Jason Bay for a bases-clearing double.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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