Dodgers can't hold off pesky D-backs

Dodgers can't hold off pesky D-backs

LOS ANGELES -- Joe Torre would have gladly put high school pitching star James Loney on the mound, that's how strange Wednesday night's game was.

Strange enough to have ended Thursday morning, with the Dodgers suffering another giveaway loss, 9-7 to the D-backs in 11 innings.

It lasted three minutes shy of five hours, the Dodgers' longest game in three years, during which the clubs used 16 pitchers and every eligible position player except for Arizona backup catcher John Hester. The Dodgers not only used six relievers, but two starting pitchers.

Chad Billingsley opened the game but was unable to protect leads of 3-0 and 5-3, or to get out of the sixth inning. And with Jeff Weaver off limits after pitching in six of the first seven games, Torre used last Sunday's starter, Charlie Haeger, to pitch a scoreless eighth inning, even though the durable knuckleballer threw a 60-pitch bullpen session before the game.

After using A.J. Ellis, his last position player, to pinch-hit in the 11th, Torre said he was prepared to use one of his position players currently in the game to pitch the 11th inning if the Dodgers had tied it.

"We'd find volunteers somewhere," Torre said, agreeing that Loney would jump at the chance.

But he didn't get that chance, even though the Dodgers scored seven runs on 19 hits, including three hits apiece from Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez and Russell Martin. Ramirez doubled leading off the bottom of the ninth inning to set up Casey Blake's game-tying double, after Rule 5 rookie Carlos Monasterios allowed Arizona to take a 7-6 lead with a home run by Justin Upton leading off the seventh inning.

Matt Kemp slugged a two-run homer in the fifth (his third in the last four games) and added a tying sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, but it was his misplay in the 11th that compounded the mess reliever Russ Ortiz started. Ortiz allowed Stephen Drew a leadoff single on a 1-2 pitch and, after Upton popped up, pitched around Adam LaRoche for a walk to bring up Mark Reynolds, who with a big swing popped a ball up to shallow center field that had plenty of hang time for somebody to get under.

Kemp, who received his Gold Glove Award on Tuesday, initially broke back on the ball, then raced in with a slide, but failed to glove the ball, and the bases were loaded. Chris Young then singled in one run and Augie Ojeda brought in the other with a sacrifice fly.

"It should have been caught," said Kemp. "I play deep, but no excuses. I should have got to the ball, it was high enough. It should have been caught and it would have been two outs."

"Today, if we catch the ball in center field, who the heck knows?" Torre said in defense of Ortiz, who has an 8.31 ERA. "It's just unfortunate. The leadoff hitter put him in a tough situation."

Of course, the Dodgers came into the game in a tough situation with an underachieving bullpen that was called into a pregame meeting by Torre.

"Ability-wise, they can do it," he said. "You just don't want them going out there with the weight of the world on their shoulders. You have to make sure they don't lose their composure."

Billingsley, coming off an impressive first start, opened the game with three scoreless innings, only to cough up two leads in the next 2 2/3 innings, charged with six runs on eight hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. Torre said Billingsley started overthrowing his pitches.

Seven pitchers came out of the Dodgers bullpen and five of them allowed no runs. Ramon Troncoso put down a rally inherited from Billingsley and Ramon Ortiz extinguished a flare-up he took over from Monasterios. George Sherrill got through a scoreless inning, thanks to a remarkable double play turned by middle infielders Blake DeWitt and Furcal. Closer Jonathan Broxton struck out two of the three batters he faced in a perfect 10th inning.

But the final three runs came off Monasterios, who had pitched only a handful of games above Class A before this year, and Russ Ortiz, whose career has been spent primarily as a starter, not a reliever.

"We just didn't get enough outs," said Torre. "Offensively, we're fine. But you can't run the clock out. You've got to get 27 outs."

The Dodgers have lost five games, having scored at least five runs in four of those losses. They lost only 11 such games all last year. They are hitting .316 as a team, but the team ERA is 5.53.

"They outplayed us at the end to get the win," said Kemp. "It was a fight, two good hitting teams. I'm not worried about it. We've still got 150 games; it's not time to panic. We're still a great team; we're all right. You can't always start the year hot, like we did last year. We're not that hot right now. But we've got a great team and we'll end up on top at the end."

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