Dodger ‘Pen No Pal of Weaver’s

Times Staff Writer

The way things are going for Jeff Weaver, he might want to keep an eye on the Green Monster in Fenway Park when he next pitches to make sure it doesn’t topple onto him.

The beleaguered Dodger starter, victimized by errors and an offense that continually stranded runners in scoring position in two recent losses to Milwaukee, handed a two-run lead to the major leagues’ best bullpen when he left after the sixth inning Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But a relief corps that had helped the Dodgers compile a 23-0 record when leading after six innings imploded, giving up four runs in the seventh and eighth in a 6-5 loss in front of 34,059 at Bank One Ballpark.


Reliever Darren Dreifort, who had thrown with pinpoint control two days earlier, had trouble with location and combined with Tom Martin to yield three runs in the seventh.

Guillermo Mota fared only slightly better in the eighth, giving up a run to end his scoreless streak at 10 innings.

And still, the Dodgers had a chance to send the game into extra innings in the ninth after Adrian Beltre hit his second homer of the game, a solo shot to right-center field, and Juan Encarnacion reached third base on a double and a wild pitch.

But Arizona closer Jose Valverde struck out Jose Hernandez swinging to end the Dodgers’ three-game winning streak and to improve the Diamondbacks’ record to 1-29 when trailing after six innings.

“Weaver had thrown a very good game again, and I didn’t get the job done,” said Dreifort, who said he struggled with his mechanics. “My arm was just a little bit behind everything else. I was just kind of dragging it through, and everything was up.”

Dreifort entered with the Dodgers leading, 4-2, and the bottom of the Diamondback order coming up. Chad Tracy cut Arizona’s deficit in half after walking on a full count and scoring on Robby Hammock’s double to right. Hammock tied the score after moving to third on a sacrifice bunt and coming home on pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga’s single past drawn-in shortstop Cesar Izturis.


Dreifort struck out Scott Hairston before giving way to Martin, who yielded consecutive singles by Steve Finley and Danny Bautista, the latter giving the Diamondbacks a 5-4 lead.

The Dodgers gave themselves several opportunities to at least tie the score in the eighth before faltering in clutch situations. Pinch-hitter Robin Ventura struck out with runners on second and third, and pinch-hitter Paul Lo Duca struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

“We got the matchups that we wanted, got the hitters to the plate that we would have wanted to have up there in those situations and it just didn’t work out,” Manager Jim Tracy said.

Hammock hit a Mota pitch for a run-scoring double in the eighth, which loomed large in the ninth when Beltre hit his 14th homer of the season before Valverde finished off his fifth save.

Tracy said he pulled Weaver after six innings, even though the right-hander had given up two runs and thrown only 72 pitches, because the Diamondbacks had hit him hard during a sixth inning in which they had three hits but managed only one run. The inning ended with a double play.

“But even more so than that was the fact of having Jeff leave on a very positive note, which he did -- six more solid innings for us,” Tracy said. “When you have a bullpen that’s been performing like this one has been performing all year long, and you have a two-run lead and you’re looking for six outs to get the ball to Eric Gagne, you really like the position that you’re in.”


Weaver said he figured he would get a chance to pitch at least one more inning based on his performance but declined to second-guess his manager’s decision.

“The last few outings, it’s been maybe one hitter too long or what not, so they were just trying to prevent that from happening again,” said Weaver, who has a 2.29 earned-run average in his last three starts but only two losses to show for it. “Our bullpen has been impeccable, so no one would have expected something like this to happen.

“It’s frustrating, but it’s part of the game.... I’m just going to continue to do what I’ve done, and eventually it will turn.”