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Loaiza, Dodgers unable to avoid sweep

Loaiza, Dodgers unable to avoid sweep

LOS ANGELES -- If all that's left of these final games is a glimpse of the future, Dodgers fans Thursday night were covering their eyes.

In another perfunctory loss to the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night, 10-4, Esteban Loaiza posted the kind of radar-gun readings Jason Schmidt had leading up to shoulder surgery.

Loaiza's fastball never reached 90 mph and he left after only 3 2/3 innings, leaving the Dodgers wondering if that's all there is to a pitcher they owe $7.35 million next year.

"My arm feels great, no problem, no pain, no nothing," Loaiza insisted. "If I had two strong legs, it would be a different story."

Loaiza theorizes that his right knee, the one that underwent arthroscopic surgery in June, is the culprit. He's correct when he says his right thigh, the one that pushes off the mound and provides velocity, has less muscle tone than his left.

"After the surgery," he said, "it looked like a toothpick."

Loiaza's theory, though, doesn't hold up well to the scrutiny of the calendar. He said his fastball was clocked at 93 mph in his first start for Oakland on Aug. 22 after the surgery, when the atrophy was worse than it is now. Thursday night, he maxed out at 89 mph and was consistently around 86-87.

That's why manager Grady Little suggests that Loaiza continues in the throes of the dead-arm stage pitchers encounter in Spring Training.

"He's missed a whole year and his location is off," said Little. "Hopefully, he'll be ready to go in Spring Training. Looking forward to seeing the whole Esteban Loaiza. It hasn't been long since the guy won 20 games."

The Dodgers were hoping Loaiza would be ready to go in a pennant race when, after watching him make only two starts for Oakland, they claimed him to replace the injured Randy Wolf in the starting rotation.

As a Dodger this season, Loaiza is 1-4 with an 8.34 ERA, compared to Schmidt's 1-4 with a 6.31. Loaiza lost his last four starts, reaching the fifth inning in none, while posting a 10.34 ERA and allowing eight homers in 15 2/3 innings.

He actually took a no-hitter into the fourth inning against the Rockies, but allowed back-to-back homers to Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe and Little pulled him quickly.

Despite three RBIs from rookie James Loney, the Dodgers continued their September collapse, having lost 10 of their last 11, while the Rockies ran their win streak to 11. That included seven wins against the Dodgers in the last two weeks via sweeps in Denver and Los Angeles as the Rockies took the season series, 12-6, the most wins they've ever had against the Dodgers in one season.

The Dodgers started seven players that had appeared at Triple-A Las Vegas within the last two seasons, everyone but Loaiza and Juan Pierre. They must win two of their final three games against last-place San Francisco just to finish with a winning record. They came out of the All-Star break with four victories to put them 13 games above .500, but have played .409 ball since.

"We had a little trouble with this ballclub in the last week and kind of glad they're gone," said Little.

One Dodger who had no trouble with the Rockies was Loney, who went 2-for-4 with a triple. He's hitting .500 over his last six games and has 31 RBIs in September, the fifth-highest total in Los Angeles Dodgers history.

"Guys are getting on base ahead of me," said Loney.

Among National League rookies, Loney ranks in the top 10 in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits.

Loney has joined Russell Martin as the prime examples of the youth movement. Colorado is reaping the rewards of a similar rebuilding program, although it took years of losing while the young players matured.

"The Rockies are a good example of that," said Little. "At this point, it's paying off for them. L.A. may be a little different than Denver, Colorado. It's going to take some time."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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