Two thousand miles from Milton Bradley and his latest problems, the Dodgers were victims of an inning of inches.
A four-run sixth was the difference in the Chicago Cubs’ 6-3 victory Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, and the rally was sparked by a double that was fair by a whisker, a two-run single that barely eluded a glove and two other singles that didn’t leave the infield.
“That inning was sort of flukish,” Dodger pitching coach Jim Colborn said.
The loss wasn’t all the product of providence, though. Dodger starter Brad Penny (6-9) didn’t help himself, failing to cover the bag on a slow roller to first baseman Jason Phillips in the sixth.
But Penny deserved better than getting pulled after only 85 pitches and seeing his earned-run average climb to 3.91.
The Cub sixth erased a 3-1 deficit and torpedoed any chance the Dodgers had of winning four in a row for the first time since April.
The Dodgers threatened in the ninth, when Dioner Navarro doubled and Jose Cruz Jr. singled with two out against closer Ryan Dempster.
But pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz flied out, and the Dodgers fell 5 1/2 games behind San Diego in the National League West.
Silver linings weren’t in abundance, but Colborn found one. It’s not often a pitcher gives up five runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings and his coach interprets the outing as significant progress.
“I’m seeing the development of a new pitcher,” Colborn said of Penny. “His pitch count was low and he was changing speeds on his fastball. He was throwing the ball like a pitcher, not a thrower.”
Penny, who signed a three-year contract extension in July, must rise early today to fight his five-day suspension and $2,000 fine for arguing with an umpire several weeks ago. Unless the penalty is reduced, he will miss a start.
Maybe some time off would be beneficial -- he has given up 16 runs in his last 16 innings.
Colborn wasn’t interested in those numbers.
“I’m very pleased at what he might become,” he said. “Brad is doing things he never did before.”
Penny was less content.
“I didn’t feel good,” he said. “Aren’t there days you don’t feel good?”
It was one of those days for the Dodgers. They showed up to learn Redondo Beach police had responded to reports of domestic abuse at Bradley’s home in June and July, while the outfielder was on the disabled list.
A few players said they knew their troubled teammate was not happy at home, but no one said they knew specifics.
But out of sight is not out of mind when it comes to Bradley.
Manager Jim Tracy resigned himself to answering another round of questions about him.
“There are things emotionally that Milton has to get a real firm grasp on,” Tracy said.
“Where the focus needs to be is here. We have a baseball team that is showing signs of playing the way we did in April.”
Until the sixth inning, anyway.
A double by Derrek Lee was barely fair. Ronny Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz beat out infield hits.
Light-hitting catcher Henry Blanco rolled a ground ball up the middle for a two-run single to break a 3-3 tie.
Penny has spent most of his time in the clubhouse recently studying sales catalogs for racehorses. He is part owner of three horses and wants to add to his stable.
He knows the Dodgers trail the Padres by several lengths. And here they come, down the stretch.
“We’ll keep going after it every day and see where it takes us,” he said. “Everybody here still thinks we have a shot. That’s for sure.”