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Dodgers Hit Wall, but Only Figuratively

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Times Staff Writer

Frank McCourt closed the door to the visiting clubhouse Friday afternoon, gathered the players around him, welcomed them to his hometown and invited them to a party tonight. Oh, the gentleman from Boston said, one more thing.

“I grew up a huge Boston Red Sox fan,” McCourt said, according to catcher Paul Lo Duca. “But I’m not one anymore. I’m an L.A. Dodger now. I want you to go out there and kick their butts.”

McCourt might be thousands of miles from Los Angeles, but no doubt the Dodgers’ new co-owner can hear the response from his team’s fans loud and clear: We want you to go out there and get us another bat.

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The events of the ninth inning were truly bizarre and will be explained shortly. The Dodgers, playing in Fenway Park for the first time in franchise history, lost in the bottom of the ninth, 2-1, on a single by David Ortiz, before a sellout crowd of 35,173. With McCourt sitting next to Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in the box seats, the Dodgers lost for the fourth time in five games and fell into second place in the National League West.

They’ve scored fewer runs than any team in the league except the Montreal Expos. And there is an impact bat available: The Kansas City Royals put outfielder Carlos Beltran on the trading block Friday.

The Dodgers got lucky to score at all. With the Red Sox one out from a 1-0 victory, Alex Cora singled. With right-hander Keith Foulke pitching, Dodger Manager Jim Tracy used Olmedo Saenz, a right-hander, to bat for Dave Roberts, a left-hander who had two of the Dodgers’ seven hits.

Tracy said he believed Saenz could take advantage of the shallow dimensions of left field, home of the wall known as the Green Monster, and noted that right-handers have hit .200 off Foulke, left-handers .141. Saenz hit a routine fly ball to shallow left, but the defensively challenged Manny Ramirez circled the ball without catching it, so poor a play he was charged an error even though his glove never touched the ball. Cora, running from first base with two out, scored the tying run.

“I almost started bawling,” Boston Manager Terry Francona said.

“I might not win a Gold Glove because of that,” Ramirez joked to Ortiz.

Tracy summoned Tom Martin for the bottom of the ninth. After Johnny Damon walked, and Mark Bellhorn doubled, Tracy opted to pitch to Ortiz rather than walk him and set up a force play for Ramirez, Boston’s best hitter. If Martin could have retired Ortiz, Tracy said, the Dodgers would have walked Ramirez to load the bases, then asked Guillermo Mota to try to get catcher Jason Varitek to hit into a double play.

“Very simple,” Tracy said.

Martin left a curveball -- an 0-2 curveball, no less -- over the heart of the plate, and Ortiz smacked it into right field for the game-winning single.

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“There’s no excuse for walking Johnny Damon in the first place,” Martin said.

Lo Duca said Martin struggled to control his emotions amid the crowd. “He was over-amped,” the catcher said. “His mechanics were all over the place.”

Odalis Perez, who turned 27 Friday, got another no-decision for his birthday. With a little run support, he suggested, his record could be 8-2, 8-1 or 8-0. Instead, he’s 3-3 with a 3.01 earned-run average; Kazuhisa Ishii is 8-3 with a 3.36 ERA.

“If I get some run support, perfect,” Perez said. “If I don’t get the run support, I’m still happy, because I did my job.”

Perez, a free agent this fall, enjoyed playing at Fenway, where the Red Sox have sold out 95 consecutive games.

“They have the greatest fans here,” he said.

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