The Dodgers got the matchup they wanted in the end, but an early deficit proved too large to overcome, as the Padres withheld the rallying Dodgers to win 4-3, and capture the three-game series at Dodger Stadium.
Down by one with one out in the ninth inning, a Rafael Furcal walk brought Jim Thome to the plate with a chance to do some damage. The Dodger Stadium crowd of 47, 528 was very excited, and nearly everybody was on their feet to watch the Dodgers' prized new power hitter come off the bench. Thome drove a 3-1 pitch to left field, but it was merely a can of corn for Drew Macias.
No matter, since "Endre" Ethier came up with two outs, representing the winning run, in a spot in which he has excelled all season. A seven-pitch at-bat provided the drama, but not the result, as Ethier also flied out to Macias, to end the game.
Hiroki Kuroda wasn't quite as sharp as usual, which is to be expected after nearly three weeks away, with just one minor league rehabilitation start. Kuroda walked three batters tonight, only the third time he has done so in 16 starts this season. Manager Joe Torre chalked it up to rust:
I thought his stuff was good, but he might have just been a little bit rusty as far as command. The home run by Gonzalez, he tried to throw in one place and it wound up in another. That stuff, when you're pitching on a regular basis, doesn't happen. Overall, I thought he looked very comfortable competing tonight, which I think we're all looking for. I was very satisfied with the way he came through it.
Jeff Weaver relieved Kuroda, throwing two shutout innings. Weaver has allowed just two runs over his last 17.2 innings, striking out 16 batters over that span.
Kevin Kouzmanoff drove in the first three Padre runs of the game, and had five of the eight San Diego runs batted in during the weekend series. Adrian Gonzalez added a solo home run in the fifth inning, his 24th road homer of the year, best in baseball.
The Dodgers cut the lead to 4-3 with a seventh inning rally, highlighted by a two-run opposite field double by Andre Ethier against lefty Joe Thatcher. It was a big hit for Ethier, considering his struggles against southpaws this season, hitting .189/.273/.336. Ethier's double was his 38th of the season, matching his career high, set last season.
The Dodgers have lost four straight Sunday home games, and eight of their last nine home Sundays. The lone win was against the Astros, when Matt Kemp homered in the eighth inning and scored all four Dodger runs in their 4-3 win. I have covered the last seven Sunday home games (Webkinz galore for me!), and will cover the final two as well, so hopefully their luck will change.
Besides the sting of the loss, Jim Thome was limping after his pinch hitting appearance. The extent of the injury is not yet known, but it appears to be something with Thome's foot. "I think its something that he has that he may have just irritated," Torre said. "Hopefully that's all it is."
The Dodgers head to Arizona tonight, and have an early start tomorrow on Labor Day. Vicente Padilla battles Max Scherzer tomorrow at 12:40pm.
WP - Tim Stauffer (4-6): 6.2 IP, 7 hits, 3 runs (1 earned), 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
LP - Hiroki Kuroda (5-6): 5 IP, 4 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 3 walks, 3 strikeouts
Sv - Heath Bell (35): 1 IP, 1 walk, 1 strikeout