LOS ANGELES (AP)—It isn’t often that a team eight games under .500 feels like a pennant contender. The Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in that unlikely position, thanks to a sudden nosedive by the NL West-leading San Diego Padres.
The third-place Dodgers (46-54) moved within four games of San Diego and only one behind Arizona. They are walking around their clubhouse like the cat that ate the canary, and hoping that the Padres’ eight-game losing streak continues.
“That’s just a testament to how weak our division is,” Kent said. “But that’s what’s going to be fun for these games in September. The only thing you need to do as a player is keep showing up and trying. That’s what we’re doing, and we’ll keep doing that until we can’t try anymore. It’s going to be very interesting.”
Los Angeles was 8 1/2 games off the pace last Tuesday, but has won five of seven.
“When you win, it’s more fun. You bet,” Kent said. “Guys are a little bit more happy and a little more upbeat. We try not to overanalyze it—just keep doing it.
“The whole pitching staff is going to be huge down the stretch,” Kent added. “I mean, you can trade for hitters, you can get the big boppers, but the bottom line comes down to pitching. And we have some guys who can pitch.”
Odalis Perez (6-5) gave up three runs—two earned—and eight hits in seven innings, striking out three before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter. It was the third straight start in which the left-hander didn’t allow a walk. In his previous outing, Perez allowed three hits over seven scoreless innings in a 7-2 win at Philadelphia.
Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 523rd career home run in the eighth against rookie Steve Schmoll, the 332nd pitcher Junior has homered against. But Yhency Brazoban, the fifth Dodgers pitcher, got three outs for his 19th save in 23 attempts—just hours after his wife gave birth to the couple’s second daughter.
Eric Milton (4-11) took the loss despite hitting his second career home run. The left-hander was charged with four runs and five hits over six-plus innings in his Dodger Stadium debut and is 1-6 with a 7.65 ERA over his last 12 starts.
“Eric pitched great and did everything he could to keep us in that game,” Reds first baseman Sean Casey said. “You can say one pitch here or one pitch there, but we as an offense could have scored more runs, too. We would have taken advantage of a couple of opportunities to put runs on the board and made it easier on him.”
Singles by Jayson Werth and Jason Repko put runners at the corners with none out in the Dodgers’ seventh, and Milton was relieved by Matt Belisle. Saenz batted for Perez and grounded out, but Izturis put Los Angeles ahead to stay with a single to center.
Antonio Perez followed with a double and Milton Bradley was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Kent followed with an RBI single, but Todd Coffee came in and retired Jason Phillips on a double-play grounder.
Saenz ended the scoring in the eighth with his ninth homer after a two-out single by Repko, who was 3-for-4.
The Reds snapped a 2-2 tie in the fifth with an unearned run. Jason LaRue led off with a single, was sacrificed to second by Milton and scored one out later when Repko tried to one-hand Rich Aurilia’s routine flyball to right and missed it for an error.
Milton, the NL’s first 11-game loser, led off the third by driving an 0-1 changeup about six rows up in the lower seats in the right-field corner to give the Reds a 2-1 lead.
It was the second home run in 121 career at-bats for the eight-year veteran, who played his first six seasons in the AL with Minnesota before spending last year with Philadelphia. Milton’s first homer came against Dodgers right-hander Jeff Weaver on May 8 at Cincinnati in a 9-3 loss.
Kent drove Milton’s first pitch of the fourth inning into the second row of seats near the left-field pole for his 18th homer, tying the score.
The Reds got hits from four of the five batters who faced Perez in the second, but ran themselves out of a potentially big inning and had to settle for one run after left fielder Werth threw out two baserunners.
Austin Kearns led off with a double and scored on a single by Casey, who was erased trying to stretch it into a two-base hit. Rookie Edwin Encarnacion doubled with two outs, but was cut down at the plate as Werth charged LaRue’s single and made a perfect, one-hop peg to Phillips.
Wednesday would have been Leo Durocher’s 100th birthday. The former Brooklyn Dodgers player and manager, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously in 1994, managed the Dodgers to a pennant in 1941. He also was a coach for them in Los Angeles in the early 1960s, and made cameo appearances on the hit TV shows “Mister Ed,” “The Munsters,” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.” … Bradley broke his bat over his knee after striking out in the fifth. … Milton has allowed a major league-high 31 home runs, after giving up a career-worst 43 last year with Philadelphia.