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Dodgers in Own Fantasy League

Times Staff Writer

Games like this only fuel the fantasy.

The Dodgers scored six runs in the second inning and held on to defeat the Chicago Cubs, 9-6, Monday night at Wrigley Field, perpetuating for another day the notion they are in a pennant race.

The perception is not without consequences. It could affect who will be promoted when rosters expand Thursday.

All those supposed saviors the Dodgers have stockpiled in double A? Don’t expect them to be called up. The Jacksonville Suns will be in the playoffs until at least Sept. 9 and possibly until Sept. 15.

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Even then, Dodger followers are unlikely to get a first glimpse of Joel Guzman, Chad Billingsley, Greg Miller, James Loney, Andy LaRoche and Justin Orenduff, because they aren’t on the 40-man roster. General Manager Paul DePodesta could shuffle the roster to make room for one or two but probably won’t as long first place in the National League West is possible.

The Dodgers (60-71) gained a game on San Diego and trail by 4 1/2 . They have won three in a row for only the third time since an eight-game winning streak ended April 20.

“I’d like to see it become four, five, six, seven or eight in a row,” Manager Jim Tracy said. “There is still plenty of time.”

Normally a team 11 games under .500 would be only too glad to bench underachieving veterans and try out kids. But Tracy said he wouldn’t put untested rookies in a position where the outcome of a meaningful game rides on their performance.

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Tested rookies are another matter. Tracy has little choice but to play Oscar Robles at shortstop, Dioner Navarro at catcher and send Rule 5 pick D.J. Houlton to the mound every five days.

Houlton (5-7) benefited from the early support, ending a six-game losing streak despite giving up four home runs -- two by Jeromy Burnitz and one each by Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Walker.

“D.J. didn’t have his best stuff, but he never allowed anything to fester,” Tracy said. “I’m seeing a lot of positive signs as far as growth is concerned.”

Four relievers, including rookies Yhency Brazoban and Steve Schmoll, staggered through the last 3 1/3 innings. But the Cubs (62-69), who after the game sent outfielder Todd Hollandsworth to Atlanta for two minor leaguers, couldn’t score more than one run in an inning.

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“We couldn’t put any crooked number up there, just straight ones,” Cub Manager Dusty Baker said.

Baker countered with five pitchers whose last names begin with W, but it was the Dodgers who came away with the W largely because of the second-inning outburst. Jeff Kent and Antonio Perez each drove in two runs against Jerome Williams (4-7), who was followed by Todd Wellemeyer, Michael Wuertz, Kerry Wood and Scott Williamson.

Kent, who had only one run batted in in the last seven games, added a two-run double in the third, and Werth hit his seventh home run in the ninth. Kent struggled at the plate last week after his widely publicized confrontation with outfielder Milton Bradley. However, he would not say he had been distracted.

“It’s so easy to point fingers and say this thing caused that thing,” he said. “We’re ballplayers, and I don’t think any of us thought about it or cared much about it.”

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More ballplayers are on the way. The roster will grow even without call-ups because shortstop Cesar Izturis, outfielder J.D. Drew and, perhaps, reliever Wilson Alvaraz are expected to come off the disabled list in September.

The only top prospect likely to join the Dodgers in the next week is infielder Delwyn Young, who was promoted to triple A at midseason. When the Suns finish the playoffs, reliever Jonathan Broxton and catcher Russell Martin probably will be called up because they are on the 40-man roster.

Otherwise, DePodesta will pick a name or two from a list of midlevel farmhands that includes Cody Ross, Mike Rose, Jason Grabowski, Chin-Feng Chen, Jose Flores, Norihiro Nakamura, Henri Stanley and Joel Hanrahan.

Last season the roster expanded to 33 players. There could be fewer this time around.

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“We are only going to bring guys who truly have a chance to play,” DePodesta said.


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