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Little Things Still Missing From Already Weary Team

Booing fans filed out of Dodger Stadium on Monday into a setting sun, sordid traffic and a record.

For the first time in 46 Los Angeles home openers, the commute was prettier than the game.

Jim Tracy said it was “fabulous.”

You didn’t need to be Dick Tracy to figure out it was awful.

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Jim Tracy said, “We did a great job all day long.”

Only if a day lasts two hours.

That was how long it took Kevin Brown to shut down the Arizona Diamondbacks while teammates were scoring three runs, giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead after six innings.

From that point, the Dodgers fell to earth as fast as those pregame Navy parachutists, the chief difference being that those guys landed on their feet.

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Questionable decisions hung in the air like bunting. Three errors made one long for the accurate first pitches of Steve Garvey, Bill Russell and Ron Cey. Sunlight turned to shadows that turned to cynicism.

About 17 hours and a half-dozen innings later, the Diamondbacks won, 6-4, in a game that meant little unless you think first impressions are important for a veteran team trying to win back a city.

OK, so the Dodgers lost, but what did the Angels do?

The game lasted 12 innings but should have been finished in regulation. The Dodgers could have won it not once but twice. For every answer there was another question. And, don’t the San Francisco Giants already have a magic number?

“It’s been a tough week for us,” Brian Jordan said.

Three wins, five losses and one Dodger Stadium standing ovation for the toughest folks on the field.

Those Navy dudes who flew the fighter planes and jumped out of the sky.

As for the Dodgers, well, given the events in the world, it is difficult to entertain their contention that one day off since flying west from Vero Beach 11 days ago has left them weary.

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“It’s taken its toll on our bodies, and we’re showing it,” Jordan said.

Their bigger battle right now seems to be with an overwrought sense of urgency, traditionally as much a part of the Dodger fabric as the color blue.

Some Dodger teams handle it well. This team, so far, has not.

Which brings us back to that sixth inning.

Brown ended the inning throwing his 90th pitch, and while he had looked grand, he also looked gassed.

Six of his last eight pitches were balls. Several times he stepped off the mound as if collecting himself. He was visited by pitching coach Jim Colborn. He was shadowed by activity in the bullpen. He was joined on the bench by Tracy.

Considering this was his second start of the season, considering he had thrown 72 pitches in this first start, considering he is coming off two injury-plagued years ...

Isn’t this when you take him out? Surely I was not alone in a record crowd of 53,819 who was saying this at the time.

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We were all overruled when Brown was allowed to start the seventh.

The first batter, Mark Grace, hit a shot up the middle that was deflected by Brown’s glove. The next batter hit one that bounced off the seats, a home run by catcher Chad Moeller.

It was only the Diamondbacks’ second home run of the season.

Now Brown was gone, but now the Diamondbacks had scored, and the tone of the game was forever changed.

Said Tracy: “We had to look at what we’d been doing to our bullpen lately. They’d been throwing a lot of pitches, so we needed Brownie for as many outs as we could get.”

Admitted Brown: “I was drained ... but if I’m not in the position to help the team, I would tell them.”

Let’s just hope this wasn’t a matter of Brown talking his way back onto the mound like last year, when this behavior led to his season ending on Sept. 10 and the Dodgers’ hopes fading soon thereafter.

Let’s hope, too, that the Dodgers aren’t going to use their veteran pitchers every night as if it were the seventh game of the World Series.

And, along those lines, let’s hope that next time a starter is in trouble, Tracy will think twice before replacing him with a pitcher who had thrown 33 pitches the day before. Guillermo Mota gave up another run only three batters later.

“The way the season has started, there’s only so much you can do,” Tracy said.

Yet even with all the hassles, and another Diamondback homer, the Dodgers could have won the game in the eighth, but for another lingering problem.

His name is Adrian Beltre, and even on a day he showed some of his enormous potential, he also added to the growing disillusionment.

His fourth-inning, bases-empty homer was nice, but it would have been nicer if he could have done something with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth.

The pitcher, Mike Myers, did his part, falling behind 3 and 1.

Then Beltre took a slow curve for strike two. Then, trying to pull it into the outfield corner as always, he hit what might have been ball four on the ground to third base.

When the Dodgers lost on rookie Lyle Overbay’s first major league homer in the 12th inning, those left in the crowd were angry at Andy Ashby. But it was anger misplaced.

There never should have been a 12th inning.

The fans never should have had to encounter the day’s worst traffic. The Dodgers only wished they were them.

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Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com.


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