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A Deuce Is Not Enough

Times Staff Writer

The Dodgers had projected confidence throughout the season, saying things were better than they appeared.

Optimism became harder to maintain Wednesday night after a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies before 26,580 at Veterans Stadium.

“The tides of fortune are definitely not in our direction right now,” said ace Kevin Brown, winless in six consecutive starts after a no-decision against the Phillies.

“It’s just thing after thing after thing.... Let’s face it: To be tied [for the] division lead [June 18], and to have the bottom just fall out like it [has] ... it’s disappointing.”

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The Phillies scored twice in the seventh to break a 2-2 tie, getting the go-ahead run on Ricky Ledee’s triple against reliever Paul Shuey (4-3) and an insurance run on Jim Thome’s sacrifice fly.

Pinch-hitter Mike Kinkade represented the potential go-ahead run with runners on first and second and one out in the ninth, and the Dodgers were upbeat after it appeared Philadelphia closer Jose Mesa hit Kinkade with a pitch.

But home-plate umpire Tim Welke ruled that the pitch missed Kinkade, who then grounded into a game-ending double play. Mesa recorded his 21st save and second of the three-game series that ends tonight, helping Turk Wendell (2-2) even his record after working 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

“It hit me,” said Kinkade, who hit for Alex Cora. “It just barely nicked me, but it hit me. It’s been going that way for a while.”

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Philadelphia (59-47) maintained a one-game lead over the Florida Marlins in the National League wild-card race on a night the Dodgers (54-52) took two steps backward. The Dodgers trail the Phillies by five games in the wild-card chase, and dropped a season-high 13 1/2 games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants in the NL West.

They are 1-4 on a three-city, nine-game trip that many players stressed is make-or-break. To have a winning trip, which the Dodgers said was imperative to maintain their playoff hopes, they must win tonight and sweep the Atlanta Braves -- who have the best record in the major leagues.

That’s the Dodgers’ situation, and it’s seemingly becoming bleaker daily.

“It’s hard to find any kind of positives right now,” said center fielder and leadoff batter Dave Roberts, given a day off to rest his right hamstring.

“You’re sitting around and waiting for something bad to happen, and it’s almost like we’re expecting it to happen now. Obviously, when you struggle like this, there is a lack of confidence.

“And when you’re playing this game expecting bad things to happen

Few good things are happening for the Dodgers.

They are 12-24 since being tied with the Giants atop the division June 18, including a 5-15 free fall going into the All-Star break. They are only 5-8 since the break, and Manager Jim Tracy has been out of answers for some time.

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“We had the winning run at home plate in the ninth, but once again, as I’ve been saying for any number of days, two runs is very difficult to try and win a baseball game with,” he said. “It’s just that simple, and there’s no getting around that.”

Brown’s last victory came on June 17. He leads the major leagues with a 2.10 earned-run average, but the Dodgers are only 12-9 in his starts.

The right-hander gave up nine hits and two runs (one earned) in six innings against the Phillies but committed a three-base throwing error in the Phillies’ two-run first.

Brown also inadvertently redirected another ball with his glove in the inning, but it was ruled a hit.

“I made mistakes,” said Brown, who has a 2.68 ERA in his six-start winless stretch. “The fact is, I made two [mistakes] in the first inning on two easy ground balls. We should have been ahead, 2-0.

“We felt like we were right where we wanted to be. Now, everything that can go wrong here recently has gone wrong.”

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Running Low

Soccer is criticized for being low scoring, but the Galaxy offense compares favorably to the Dodger offense in their last six league games. A look:

DODGERS

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July 24 Dodgers 1, Colorado 0 July 25 at Arizona 2, Dodgers 1 July 26 at Arizona 1, Dodgers 0 July 27 Dodgers 1, at Arizona 0 July 29 at Philadelphia 2, Dodgers 0 July 30 at Philadelphia 4, Dodgers 2

*--*

GALAXY

*--* June 21 at MetroStars 1, Galaxy 0 June 25 at Colorado 2, Galaxy 2 June 28 Galaxy 3, Dallas 0 July 4 Galaxy 2, New England 2 July 9 Colorado 1, Galaxy 0 July 30 Galaxy 2, Columbus 1

*--*

Total runs for DODGERS...5

Total goals for GALAXY...9

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NL Wild Card

*--* Team W L Pct GB Philadelphia 59 47 557 -- Florida 59 49 546 1 St. Louis 56 51 523 3 1/2 Arizona 56 52 519 4 DODGERS 54 52 509 5 Colorado 56 54 509 5

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