Padres again prevent Dodgers from clinching West

BY foxsports • October 1, 2009

The Los Angeles Dodgers need another win or a Colorado Rockies loss to clinch the NL West title. That final step is proving to be a tricky one.

Los Angeles matched its season high with its fourth consecutive loss Wednesday night, managing just one hit in a 5-0 loss to Clayton Richard and the San Diego Padres.

The Dodgers failed once again to secure its second consecutive division title for the first time since 1977-78. They beat Pittsburgh 8-4 on Saturday night to wrap up a playoff berth.

"There's really not a lot to be said," Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said. "It's an interesting situation because we haven't clinched the division but we're still going to the playoffs. We certainly don't want to finish the season on a bum note because momentum-wise it doesn't help you in the postseason."

The Dodgers' lead was trimmed to 2 1/2 games by Colorado, which beat Milwaukee 10-6 and now controls its destiny. The Rockies host the Brewers on Thursday before finishing the season with three games against the Dodgers in Southern California.

Los Angeles' lead for the home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs was cut to a half-game over Philadelphia, which beat Houston 10-3 to clinch the East title.

"You want to win the division, absolutely," pitcher Jon Garland said. "It means a lot to everyone on the team, the organization, fans. But it doesn't matter if we have home field or not because you have to win on the road. If you can't win on the road, you're not going to be successful."

The Dodgers had a six-game lead with seven games remaining after Saturday's win. Los Angeles has dropped six of eight overall, all on the road to sub-.500 teams.

"We'll be OK," Matt Kemp said. "As soon as we win a game, all the talk will be over and we can get ready for the playoffs. We control what happens to us."

Kemp's first-inning single was the only hit against the trio of Richard (5-2), Mike Adams and rookie Luke Gregerson. Five of San Diego's eight shutouts have come in September.

Richard, a rookie left-hander acquired from the Chicago White Sox in the Jake Peavy trade, walked three, struck out two and allowed just one runner to reach second.

"You never want anyone celebrating on your home field," Richard said. "I know we're not in position to celebrate, but we wanted to postpone their party."

Los Angeles has had champagne on ice since Saturday night in Pittsburgh. Unable to wrap up the division to this point, the Dodgers could clinch on their day off if the Rockies lose to the Brewers.

"We'll take a day off, which we need, get home and loosen up a little bit," Garland said. "We'll be fine."

Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a three-run homer for San Diego, which has gone 10-4 in September against NL West playoff contenders Los Angeles, Colorado and San Francisco.

"We talked about playing contending teams tough," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It's a measuring stick."

The Dodgers (93-66), who are in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, have scored one run or less four times in their last six games.

Kouzmanoff hit his 18th homer off Garland (11-13) in the third inning to put the Padres ahead 4-0.

Rookie Everth Cabrera scored a run on a bizarre play in the fourth. Third baseman Mark Loretta collided with Cabrera in a rundown. As Loretta fell to the turf, he grabbed Cabrera's leg while the rookie was attempting to get back to third. Loretta was charged with an error and Cabrera was awarded home on the obstruction call.

Garland allowed five runs, four earned, and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings.

NOTES: When asked if the club will celebrate Friday if the Rockies lose Thursday, Torre said: "Yeah, I'm not going to invite everybody over to my house." ... San Diego has thrown three combined one-hitters this season and has 23 one-hitters in its history. The Padres are one of four clubs who have never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter. ... Torre said LHP Clayton Kershaw will start Saturday against Colorado. ... Dodgers RHP Hiroki Kuroda reported a stiff neck after running on Tuesday. ... Los Angeles 3B Casey Blake (strained left hamstring) missed his eighth straight game and Ronnie Belliard (groin) sat out his second consecutive game.