Ethier error costs Dodgers chance to clinch West

BY foxsports • September 28, 2009

This should have been so easy for the Dodgers: Jonathan Broxton on the mound, a three-run lead in the ninth inning against the dismal Pirates and an NL West title to celebrate as soon as they closed it out.

Instead, easy turned into excruciating as Los Angeles let a victory slip away when the majors' second-worst team pulled off a four-run rally aided by several defensive lapses.

Right fielder Andre Ethier misplayed Lastings Milledge's two-run single for an error that allowed the winning run to score, and last-place Pittsburgh beat the Dodgers 6-5 to prevent Los Angeles from clinching the NL West title on Sunday.

"You've got to get 27 outs. That's why baseball's a little crazy sometimes," said shortstop Rafael Furcal, who committed one of two Dodgers errors in the ninth.

Los Angeles, already assured a playoff spot, went ahead 5-2 with three runs in the ninth against Matt Capps (4-8), only to let the Pirates stage their best rally of a miserable season. Pittsburgh, four losses from 100, won for only the fifth time in 29 games.

"As many times as you snatch it back from somebody else, you have to understand those things happen," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "It's not easy to take, but that's why you watch every pitch."

The Dodgers went into the game with a magic number of two for clinching the division crown, but it essentially was one because Colorado would lose any tiebreaker with them. After they lost, the Dodgers sat quietly in front of their lockers watching the Cardinals-Rockies game, hoping for a St. Louis victory and a delayed celebration.

Instead, the Rockies won 4-3, meaning the Dodgers must win Monday afternoon if they want to leave Pittsburgh as division champions. The Rockies are off Monday.

Furcal wasn't among those staying around after the Dodgers lost.

"I don't care about that game," Furcal said. "I care about us. I'll go back and think about the (bad) game we played."

Broxton (7-2) gave up singles to pinch-hitters Delwyn Young and Brandon Moss before Andrew McCutchen grounded into a force out. Andy LaRoche's infield single scored Young, making it 5-3, and McCutchen moved to third when Furcal threw wildly for an error.

Furcal also thought he should have turned a double play on McCutchen's grounder.

"If I make those two plays, we win easy," he said.

After Garrett Jones was intentionally walked for the third time, Milledge - who stranded five runners while going hitless in his first four at-bats - lined a two-run single into right field to tie it. Jones kept running on the play and scored when the ball went under Ethier's glove and rolled to the warning track.

"The Dodgers have a great team and they're going to do great things in the postseason," Milledge said. "For us to score four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning against that team and one of the best closers in baseball is quite an accomplishment. It's something we can feel good about, something that can give us a little confidence going into the offseason."

Los Angeles went into the seventh trailing Pirates rookie Daniel McCutchen 2-1, but shortstop Luis Cruz fumbled a potential double-play grounder by pinch-hitter Jim Thome and settled for getting one out as James Loney scored the tying run.

The Pirates brought in their closer, Capps, to pitch the ninth, but he immediately gave up singles to Loney, Ronnie Belliard and Russell Martin that put the Dodgers ahead.

After Orlando Hudson bunted the runners up and pinch-hitter Manny Ramirez was intentionally walked, second baseman Brian Bixler threw late to the plate trying to get pinch-runner Juan Castro on Furcal's grounder. Robinzon Diaz's passed ball allowed the third run of the inning to score.

The lead didn't stand up, as Broxton blew his sixth save in 42 opportunities.

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw made his first start since Sept. 4, three days before separating his right shoulder while shagging fly balls in Dodger Stadium, but left trailing 2-1 after four innings. He threw 77 pitches, almost exactly the number Torre wanted, but his wildness hurt him as he allowed two runs in the third.

After Bixler and McCutchen singled, Kershaw's wild pitch scored Bixler from third, and another wild pitch sent McCutchen to third. LaRoche followed with a run-scoring double.

Kershaw gave up four hits, struck out four and walked one but is winless in his last 10 starts while receiving only 11 runs of support.

The Dodgers scored in the third on Furcal's RBI single, which extended his hitting streak to 11 games, but Daniel McCutchen made the best of his five starts. He gave up five hits and two runs over six-plus innings.

NOTES: Torre didn't start Ramirez in a day game that followed a night game. ... The Dodgers also had two costly errors while losing to the Pirates 3-1 on Friday. The Dodgers are 3-3 in their last six games against the teams with the majors' two worst records, the Nationals and Pirates.

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